By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Sept. 23 — When Dorothy Welch first came to work at Blue Ridge Bank five years ago, there were about 75 employees and the company held assets of $269 million at the close of FY2015.
In 2020, the Luray-based bank surpassed the $1 billion mark in assets and now employs nearly 375. Those assets are expected to grow to more than $2.5 billion next year, according to Welch, as yet another merger is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.
On Wednesday morning, Welch, Senior Vice President of Strategic Engagement, led a group of local officials through a tour of the bank’s new Operations Center at 52 West Main Street. The $2.3 million renovation of the two-story structure once known for duck pin bowling serves as yet another example of BRB’s continued growth and expansion.
“To be able to make this investment in the town and the community… to expand our operations, expand employment opportunities in the community and share that publicly, gives us a great deal of pride,” Welch said after the tour. “We want everyone to see the commitment the bank has to the community… to make things better for them and our employees.”
The purchase, renovation and repurposing of a nearly vacant property along Main Street was not lost on local officials.
“I’m really impressed with what you’ve done here,” said District 2 Supervisor Allen Louderback, as he stood among the 11 individual offices and 41 overall work spaces newly designed on the second floor. “It’s great for downtown revitalization. It’s great for the whole county. The growth of the bank sets a good precedent.”
On Jan. 14, Blue Ridge Bankshares Inc. announced its acquisition of Richmond-based LenderSelect Mortage Group. The news came just two weeks after Blue Ridge Bank officials rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. On Dec. 23, 2019, the local bank’s common stock was approved for listing on the NYSE American Exchange under the symbol “BRBS.”
Just prior to that in December 2019, BRB also announced its $42.5 million merger with Virginia Community Bank based in Louisa County. This all followed a 2016 acquisition of River Community Bank.
The latest planned merger with Bay Banks, announced in late August, will create the fourth largest community bank in Virginia, according to a release by Ciston PR Newswire. The all-stock merger will create “a pro forma total market capitalization approaching $200 million,” according to the release.
“Under the terms of the merger agreement, which was unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, Bay Banks shareholders will receive 0.50 shares of Blue Ridge common stock for each share of Bay Banks common stock they own. Upon completion of the merger, Bay Banks shareholders will own approximately 54 [percent] and Blue Ridge shareholders will own approximately 46 [percent] of the combined company,” the release continues.
“The combined company and bank will operate under the Blue Ridge name and will trade under the ticker symbol ‘BRBS’ on the NYSE American stock exchange. The holding company will be headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the subsidiary bank will be headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. As of June 30, 2020, the pro forma company would have approximately $2.4 billion in assets, $1.9 billion in loans and $2.2 billion in deposits, ranking it fourth in community bank deposit market share for institutions under $10 billion in assets in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the release states.
Brian K. Plum, CEO of Blue Ridge, will continue as CEO of the combined company.
“We are excited to partner with Blue Ridge,” said Randy Greene, CEO of Bay Banks. “We have great respect for Brian, and the company Blue Ridge has built. Blue Ridge has achieved record revenue for the first half of 2020 driven by strong mortgage-related income. This is a great combination of two companies with rich Virginia histories dating back over 200 years combined.”
“This combination creates additional resources to invest in our communities and the technologies necessary to maintain and improve upon our core commitment to providing responsive, client-centric financial services,” Plum added. “Bay Banks’ combination of longstanding dedicated service to its legacy communities with significant success in key Virginia MSA’s will diversify the combined company’s revenue and market demographics; positioning Blue Ridge as the community bank of choice in its markets. We remain zealously committed to building a top-performing financial services provider passionately dedicated to serving its communities and clients, and our partnership with Bay Banks reinforces our momentum to fulfill that commitment.”
The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and approval from the shareholders of Blue Ridge and Bay Banks.
Bay Banks of Virginia, Inc. is the bank holding company for Virginia Commonwealth Bank and VCB Financial Group, Inc. Founded in the 1930s, Virginia Commonwealth Bank is headquartered in Richmond with 18 banking offices, located throughout the greater Richmond region, the Northern Neck, Middlesex County, and Hampton Roads.
Locally, Blue Ridge Bank has added about 25 new positions at the Luray branch over the past few years, including 10 new positions since moving several departments to the new Operations Center.
“Thank you for investing $2 million into downtown,” Luray councilman Jerry Dofflemyer said to bank officials during Wednesday morning’s tour. “We’ve been working on filling some of these empty buildings for several years, and some of those efforts are starting to show [results]. We still have some vacant buildings to work on, but this brings more employees downtown… and it’s just a wonderful thing.”
Retail services, human resources, accounting and the financial tech division remain at the bank’s main location just a few hundred feet up West Main Street — deposit operations, loan operations, dealer lending and IT have all moved to the new center.
“Moving people, basically, into one room… the collaboration and teamwork we have seen because of that really is exciting,” Welch said.
While the bank occupies the second floor and is leaving the open work spaces available for its continued growth, the first floor is occupied by a retail business, Custom Touches by Cristi, and a local fitness spot called Downtown Studios Unlimited. David Foltz Photography also shares space with Custom Touches.
“We could not be more pleased,” Luray Downtown Initiative program director Meredith Dees said on Wednesday. “To get new storefront retail space on Main Street is a big deal, and especially to get something so modern and gorgeous.”
The equipment for the duck pin bowling lanes in the lower level was removed as part of the initial demolition work, according to Danny Presgraves, facilities manager for BRB.
Presgraves said that P.W. Campbell, a construction company from Pennsylvania, began the demolition and renovation work on the building Jan. 6 and completed the construction project on May 23. He also said there are several ideas being considered to repurpose the former bowling lanes, possibly into an incubator site for new business or a HUB Zone site for digital companies needing office space.
“We want to do whatever we can,” Presgraves said. “But I think there’s an opportunity to create more jobs for the county.”
Blue Ridge Bank was chartered and organized in 1893 as a state institution under the title “Page Valley Bank of Virginia.” The Bank officially opened for business on Monday, January 3, 1894 with paid in capital of $15,000 and a charter maximum of $25,000. At the time of its organization it was the only bank in Page County, Virginia.
The bank opened its first branch at 612 E. Main St., Luray, in June of 1974, and its second branch in Shenandoah, Virginia, in March 2002.
Today, Blue Ridge Bankshares, Inc. is a multi-state bank holding company with 15 branch locations offering commercial banking services throughout Virginia and North Carolina.
Visit www.mybrb.com for more information.