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SC County Bank business picks up in Q1

April 22, 2010

By Jennifer Pittman - Santa Cruz Sentinel

Higher net interest income, office consolidation and employee attrition helped boost the bottom line for Santa Cruz County Bank which reported a leap in net revenue to $267,980 from just $22,509 a year ago in the same quarter.

First quarter numbers, from loans to deposits to assets and the total number of accounts, all grew compared to this time last year.

It wasn't a surprise, said David Heald, president and chief executive officer.

"In the last half of 2009, we began to make these adjustments to operate in the economic environment that we have so we would be in a position to start earning a much better bottom line," he said.

The bank added a new branch in Aptos last year but was able to maintain expenses, in part by closing a loan office on 41st Avenue in Capitola and not filling positions that became vacant due to attrition. One of the positions that was not filled was the executive vice president and chief operating officer position left vacant by the resignation in January of Sandi Eason.

In its first year of operation, the Aptos location has grown to nearly $10 million in deposits since opening.

The bank's best marketing tool for a small, locally operated bank these days may the tarnished image of major banks, Heald said.

"I'm pretty pleased with the first quarter and we can continue to improve on that," said Heald, adding he hopes to see net income double.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and Business and Industry Department ranked the bank 13th in the nation for providing $18.6 million in Business and Industry loans to small businesses during the SBA fiscal year ended 2009.

The local economy, however, may still take some time to pick up, Heald said. Anecdotally, small business owners only began talking late last year about seeing a stabilization in revenue but it may be the end of this year before things really improve.

"For some reason, Santa Cruz seems to lag behind Silicon Valley and the San Francisco peninsula about six months," Heald said. "We are still seeing individuals that are struggling. Some have been able to make the adjustments and are doing quite a bit better while others that were a little marginal and didn't have anywhere to go in decreasing expenses -- those are the ones that are still struggling."

The annual meeting of bank shareholders is scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 25, at Bittersweet Bistro, 787 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Aptos.

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