Peach Buzz Winter 2023

Vol. 13 | Winter 2023  
Private Banking

A Financial Concierge Just for You

In operating a business, time is money – which often leaves less time to look after your own personal wealth.

We can help. Our Private Banking team at Peach State Bank & Trust operates like a personal concierge to guide and manage your finances.

Heather Wilbanks, Senior Vice President, and Elizabeth Cain, Assistant Vice President, lead our Private Banking team. They provide a single point of contact for our clients, particularly those with complex finances and high net worth.

“I have a very busy schedule, so I like the convenience of calling or texting my private banker to handle virtually any financial matter,” says one of our Private Banking clients.

Through their relationships and familiarity with each client’s finances, Heather and Elizabeth are in an ideal position to make recommendations tailored to a specific financial need or situation.

“We are able to help them with not only their lending needs – personally and professionally – but can also provide assistance
with their deposit relationships,” Heather says. “We provide extraordinary customer service.”

She emphasized that “every bank has similar banking products, but our services as a locally operated community bank set us apart from the rest.”

Also, unlike other banks, our Private Banking team doesn’t follow a regular 9-to-5 workday, especially in cases of financial emergencies.
“We cater to schedules that operate outside banking hours,” Elizabeth says. “Life is already busy, so our goal is to make banking easier with a custom approach that fits you.”

Heather loves her job as a private banker because she loves helping people. “It’s a great feeling to help someone accomplish their dreams and goals – from buying a home or investment property to launching a new business venture,” Heather says. “Every day is a new opportunity.”

Our private banking team strives to foster deep relationships built on trust, performance, and expertise. Contributing to the success of each client is what drives them.

Heather Wilbanks, Senior Vice President and Elizabeth Cain, Assistant Vice President.

‘It’s a great feeling to help someone accomplish their dreams and goals, from buying a home or investment property to launching a new business venture.’

-Heather Wilbanks, Private Banking


Local Tourism Stakes Claim as Economic Kingpin

Ron Quinn
President & CEO

In a thriving regional economy like ours, most of us can easily point to our primary breadwinners:

  • Poultry (yes, we’re still the Poultry Capital of the World)
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Warehousing, trucking and logistics

With each new industry announcement, hospital expansion, or update on the region’s future inland port, these highly visible sectors of our economy are always in the news.

Often overlooked, however, is our tourism “industry.” Many locals, especially those who grew up here, may scoff at this notion of our community as a vacation spot. But by all accounts, including recent research commissioned by the Lake Lanier CVB, tourism rightfully belongs on any Top 5 list of the biggest economic drivers in Gainesville-Hall County.

The new tourism study more than supports this claim, plus a number of surprising positive trends.

Tourists from Sweet Home Alabama?
A growing number of spend-happy visitors from Birmingham are flocking to Hall County and Northeast Georgia.

Back in 2005, the last time a study was conducted here, 40 percent of visitors to our community were labeled as “pass-throughs,” people who stopped here to eat or gas up on their way to the nearby mountains, Helen, Atlanta, and other fun spots. Today, that number has dwindled to 7 percent. More than a third of our visitors are intentionally coming here now to shop, dine and play – clear evidence of our emerging destination status.

Lodging, which includes hotels and short-term property rentals (Airbnbs, etc.), brought in $72.6 million last year in Gainesville-Hall County, according to Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier CVB. That number represents an 89 percent increase since 2015.

Interesting local tourism trends

A growing number of millennials, particularly young couples in their 30s, are visiting here with their children. This is a desirable demographic because they spend more money and represent a positive long-term trend that should continue to pay dividends.

You might expect these visitors are coming up I-85 North from Atlanta to escape the big city. However, the tourism study found that Birmingham has discovered us, too, and they’re spending almost twice as much as Atlanta residents.

Lake Lanier and Road Atlanta have traditionally been our main draws. However, much like our industrial economy has diversified away from its focus on poultry, so too has our tourism economy broadened to other attractions.

Mrs. Dickson points out our “charming town centers” have become star attractions. The downtown redevelopment efforts in Gainesville, Flowery Branch and Braselton – with similar plans for Oakwood that feature the popular Interactive Neighborhood for Kids museum – have been tremendously successful. They’ve all banded together to effectively reverse the one-time trend of failing downtowns.

The north-to-south Islands to Highlands trail, though slow in connecting together, is already showing great promise in attracting new housing, breweries and restaurants. Like Atlanta’s Beltline, people are drawn to these outdoor experiences that combine walking and cycling with unique dining and bars.

Another economic benefit of our rising tourism market is its growing share of sales taxes and lodging taxes contributed to our government coffers. Each tax dollar paid by outsiders is one less dollar we owe for roads and other infrastructure, and visitors contribute about $16.8 million annually in state and local taxes.

Tourism, indeed, is our clean and green industry with little to complain about unless you don’t like the longer wait at your favorite restaurants. And from a quality-of-life standpoint, it sure beats living in the middle of nowhere.

Roll Tide?
The Hidden Football Talent of Charles Blair, Chief Financial Officer

You might be surprised that our mild-mannered CFO, Charles Blair, was once a Superman on the football gridiron, including a brush with legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant as an Alabama punter.

It all started on the playing fields of Fort Valley, Ga., where Charles grew up learning valuable life lessons from playing team sports.

“Participating in team sports taught leadership and instilled in me the importance of each individual’s contribution to the overall success of a team,” he says.

A star quarterback and punter in high school, his athleticism allowed him to play at the college level, eventually leading to a brief stint with the Crimson Tide of Alabama under the leadership of Coach Bear Bryant.

Charles originally planned to play ball at Marion Military Institute in Alabama before the school abruptly cancelled its 1974 football season, apparently for financial reasons. Then, a great opportunity came to light with the offer to join Alabama as an invited walk-on. Charles was honored to be part of the team despite never seeing game action. (Surely, Bama’s loss!)

The following spring, Marion reinstated its football program, and the Alabama coaches suggested he spend his sophomore season there to brush up on his skills. This time, Charles played defensive back but unfortunately hurt his shoulder In Marion’s last game of the season. The injury required surgery, ending his college football career.

Despite his disappointment, Charles made the most of his experience, returning to Alabama – this time as a full-time student – to earn a degree in finance and accounting.

“I learned so many life lessons from being around the Alabama football program – especially hard work, organization, preparation, and attention to detail,” he says. “And even though I had little direct contact with Coach Bryant, observing how he conducted practices and listening to his team talks have resonated with me even more as I’ve aged.”

Charles Blair
Vice President, Operations

Charles also treasures the lifelong friendships developed from his long-ago playing days.

“Being on a team, you build friendships that transcend the years,” he says. “You may go years without seeing a teammate, but it doesn’t’ take long to reconnect at a reunion because of the special bond among teammates.”

Today, Charles says he has found the same bond working with his team at Peach State Bank, where he celebrated his 12th year back in January.

As our CFO, Charles is responsible for financial accounting, funds oversight, and overall asset-liability management. Throughout his nearly 50 years in banking, Charles has served as an auditor, controller, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Executive Officer. He started his banking career in college, working summers and holidays.

Charles and his wife of 44 years, Johnnie, live in Commerce. They have two adult children, twins Camille and Win. Camille teaches family and consumer science at Commerce High School. She and her husband, Cole, have two boys, Finn, 4, and Whit, 15 months. Win works for Southern Gas in Atlanta. He and his wife, Ann Hughston, have two girls, Ruthie, 3, and Julia, 7 months.

Charles has been involved with the Northeast Georgia Council Boy Scouts of America for nearly four decades, including serving in leadership capacities. He currently is Chairman of the Endowment Committee. A member of Commerce First United Methodist Church, he is chairman of the Staff Parish Relations Committee.

So, the next time you see Charles at our bank or out in the community, give him a “Roll Tide” and a high-five in recognition of his football prowess – and a “job well done” leading our Peach State team!

customer spotlight | The Norton Agency

A Gainesville Institution for Nearly a Century

Norton brothers Bob and Frank.

W.L. Norton Sr. established The Norton Agency in 1928 as an insurance and real estate office in Gainesville. Today, the family-owned agency has grown with each generation into the largest privately owned real estate and insurance firm in Georgia.

Frank K. Norton Sr., W.L. Norton’s youngest son, joined the company in 1952. Together the father and son expanded the focus of their business beyond insurance to developing and selling residential communities throughout the area, as well as managing quality real estate properties.

A couple of decades later, Frank Sr.’s wife, Betty V. Norton, joined the firm as Residential Broker and Relocation Director in 1970.

“I believe we’ve always had the ability to adapt to changes in the economy or growth trends,” says Frank Norton Jr., the company’s third generation and today’s executive chairman of real estate. “It’s in our DNA to make changes and be able to turn on a dime and evolve like the rest of surrounding North Georgia.”

It’s obviously working. Frank Jr. and his brother, Bob Norton, now lead a company that has grown to more than 450 employees and 30 offices. Despite their size, the Nortons and their company remain fully invested in all the communities they serve.

“We are community minded, partnering with the right local organizations such as Peach State Bank, and are proud to be a part of the growth and success of Gainesville and beyond,” says Bob, executive chairman of insurance.

The company’s adaptability that Frank points out is no more evident than in the work of the real estate side’s newest venture – Ncredible Properties, which locates choice sites in the area and creates quality communities with unique designs.

“On our residential side, we are evolving into an affordable housing developer investor,” Frank says. “While our family once was involved in numerous neighborhood developments like Gainesville’s storied Longstreet Hills, we are turning our energy to building small villages – we call them Liberty Villages – that serve the local employment in the communities.”

Four of those villages – The Cottages on Enota, Liberty Forest, Liberty Midland, and The Cottages of Lula – were financed through Peach State. The goal is to blueprint the Liberty program over the next five years at possibly a dozen other sites.

Like the real estate division, Norton Insurance has been an industry leader throughout its existence. It now serves as the flagship agency and corporate headquarters for Legacy Risk Solutions, a network of independent insurance agencies across Georgia, the Carolinas, and Mississippi.

“Our volume of business puts us in the top 100 agencies in the country,” Bob says. “Though we are a large agency, we are actually one agency comprised of many smaller agencies in small towns. Like Peach State Bank, we bring hometown service to the towns where we are located.”

Hail to the chiefs!

Peach State Fields Two Local Rotary Club Presidents in Same Year

Ron Quinn, President
David Dyer, Senior Vice President

When our bank president Ron Quinn and senior vice president David Dyer showed up at a training session for incoming Rotary Club presidents, they both had the same thought.

“What are you doing here?”

Ron is the current president of the Gainesville Rotary Club, while David has taken over the reins this year at the Braselton Rotary Club.

“We did not know we were both serving as Rotary presidents until attending our president-elect training,” says Ron. “It was a coincidence but not a surprise since we both enjoy serving our community and others around the world through Rotary.”

In addition to Ron and David, Peach State’s Mike Underwood is a member of the South Hall Rotary Club and Mickey Hyder is a Hall County Rotary Club member.

“Being a Rotary president is an honor and a large responsibility,” says David, a member of his Braselton club for 14 years. “Our club was founded in 2003 and has been a leader in serving the Braselton community. We would like to continue to make a difference going forward.”

As a community bank, Peach State encourages our employees to take leadership roles in the community through service in civic clubs, school boards, and non-profits.

“As a community banker, we have always looked to serve our hometowns,” says David, who also serves on the Barrow County Planning Commission. “I especially like Rotary because it opens up so many more chances to serve than I could ever do by myself.”

Rotary clubs work on annual projects and programs to enrich their communities.

This year, Ron’s Gainesville Rotary Club is supporting an initiative to build awareness about mental health issues at local high schools.

“We are sponsoring the Mental Health Summit at the Gainesville High HUB where all 11 high schools in Hall County will send student leaders to learn how to spot the signs of mental illness and help their fellow students,” says Ron, who is also vice chairman of The Arts Council in Gainesville. “I enjoy the interaction with other businesspeople and the projects that allow us to work together.”

The Braselton Club is providing new kitchen equipment, a commercial refrigerator and utensils to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Jackson County to assist it in educating youth in healthier eating habits and preparation of food.

customer spotlight | Dr. Evan Brady

Hall County Doctor Returns Home to Practice

Dr. Evan Brady

Dr. Evan Brady, a board-certified gastroenterologist, grew up in North Hall County. Years later after medical school, his strong community ties brought him back home to Gainesville.

“My dad (Keith Brady) is a senior vice president and lender at Peach State Bank,” Evans says. “My mom, Amy, and sister, Erin Bohanan, were teachers in the Hall County School System. And we are all members of Riverbend Church here.”

A 2006 North Hall High graduate, Evan has practiced at Gastroenterology Associates of Gainesville for over two years and treats patients with a variety of gastrointestinal, liver, and pancreatic conditions. He was led to pursue a career in medicine due to a rare congenital heart condition since birth.

“Tales of this experience gave me a lifelong desire to give back to the world a part of what has been given to me, which is my health,” he says.

Evan’s road to practicing medicine in Gainesville started with an undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia. He graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and completed his residency at Emory University in Atlanta. He did his fellowship and specialist training in gastroenterology at Georgetown University in Washington.

“Apart from my father, I bank with Peach State Bank because of its personal, family-oriented, hometown atmosphere,” he says. “It’s that feeling that brought me back to Gainesville and keeps me as a Peach State customer.”

Gazebo Named in Memory of Community Leader Jack Frost

President & CEO Ron Quinn speaks at the Jack Frost Gazebo dedication as Janice Frost, left, and Jack’s friends Bill Coates and Abit Massey look on with Kevin Wetzel, Jack’s nephew and current operator of Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemeteries.

In recognition of the late Jack Frost, a successful local businessman and strong supporter of Peach State Bank, we have named the gazebo at our Gainesville headquarters in his honor.

“Jack would have loved this day so much,” said his wife, Janice Frost, at an October 12th dedication ceremony. “Today would have been our 49th wedding anniversary.”

Jack Frost, who passed away at the age of 89 in 2021, served on the Peach State Bank Community Development Board. The owner of Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries in Gainesville, Flowery Branch and Braselton, Jack was known for his business success, community spirit, and selfless generosity.

Peach State President & CEO Ron Quinn says that Jack never met a stranger and had a great gift of being able to strike up a conversation with anyone.

“If he saw you and had never met you before he would come up and ask who you are and what you do,” Ron says. “The next time he saw you he would remember you. He had a great memory.”

Jack Frost - Dedication Plaque
An extraordinary soul who left footprints across the globe and imprinted our local community with his boundless kindness and selflessness. Businessman Philanthropist Lover of Life.

325 Washington St SW | Gainesville, GA 30501 | Phone: (770) 536-1100 | Fax: (770) 536-2525