Austin Bank named Medium Business of the Year
The bank will be recognized at the Chamber’s 91st Annual Meeting and Membership Banquet presented by Andrews & Andrews Attorneys at Law, Tuesday, Sept. 25, beginning with a social hour at 6 p.m. and dinner served at 7 p.m. in the SFA Grand Ballroom, Baker Pattillo Student Center.
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By Bruce R. Partain
Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
Austin is famous in Texas, and beyond.
Some might assume a bank with that well-known name hails from Central Texas.
But Austin Bank carries the name of an East Texas family. And it has roots in not just one town, but many.
The story begins in Jacksonville, where the town’s First National Bank opened its doors October 1, 1900, primed with a paid-in cash capital of $25,000. That was about $1 for each and every person in Cherokee County.
Meanwhile, in 1907, John F. Austin was president and a founder of First State Bank of Frankston, just 15 miles down the road from Jacksonville. With his wife, Sallie J. Austin, John F. started a banking dynasty, as his son Jeff, grandson Jeff, Jr., granddaughter Jane, and great-grandson Jeff III would eventually join the business.
From 1944 through 1985, the Austin family acquired six separate community banks in Big Sandy, Jacksonville, Longview, Rusk, Timpson, and Whitehouse. Other banks were acquired in Troup and Grand Saline. In 1996 all holdings were renamed Austin Bank. In 1997, Austin Bank purchased seven Bank of America locations across East Texas. All banks were combined in 1999 under the bank charter of Austin Bank Texas N.A, in Jacksonville – the oldest of the institutions. From 2004-10 the family acquired banks in Bullard, Kilgore and Frankston, and added locations in Longview.
“When we decided to go with the Austin name, I was at first a little modest about it,” said Jeff Austin, Sr. “But now I guess I like it. My family, friends and associates can carry the name on.”
Today, offices are located in 31 East Texas locations within 21 cities and 10 counties. The enterprise’s 438 employees earn a combined payroll of $22 million annually and the bank holds $1.3 billion in assets.
One hundred years plus eight months after First National Bank of Jacksonville welcomed the public, Francis Spruiell - a young, dynamic bank officer from Pep, Texas - unlocked the doors on Austin Bank’s first Nacogdoches site. The branch opened June 1, 2001 in a store-front location on Austin and University, with four employees.
In July 2004, the bank relocated to its present location at 3120 North Street. It now staffs 12 employees.
“Austin Bank makes a difference in the communities we serve with generous contributions in support of education, arts and culture, literacy, housing needs and health services,” Spruiell said. “Since the inception in 2005 of our Commitment-to-Community Scholarship, Austin Bank has awarded assistance to 193 East Texas students.” During 2011, employees gave thousands of hours of volunteer service and the bank contributed monetarily in direct community support across East Texas.
For the past four years Austin Bank has been selected as one of the Best Companies to Work for in Texas. That award is a project of Texas Monthly, the Texas Association of Business, the Texas State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management and Best Companies Group.
Jeffrey Cuevas, owner of NRG Aquatic Physical Therapy, has been an Austin Bank customer for 7 years. “Austin Bank guided me through the rules and regulations on getting an SBA loan,” he said. “I didn’t know a thing about it – and they helped me at every step.”
Cuevas said he appreciates the bank’s personal service.
“Francis also went above and beyond on a real estate deal for me,” he said. “She read the deal thoroughly and raised some red flags. She didn’t try to influence me, but it helped me avoid making a decision I would regret.”
Chairman of the board Jeff Austin, Jr., says the bank “continues to stand tall as a strong, stable financial institution. Our legacy has been the result of hard work, adherence to our founding principles of honor and integrity, prudent decisions, and our dedication to East Texas.”
Jeff Austin III looks forward to the future with a vision to “be the bank of choice in communities we serve.”
Moving into its second century, the bank is “blessed with longevity,” he said. “My great-grandmother Sallie said ‘be good to banking, and banking will be good to you.’”
About the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce 91st Annual Meeting & Membership Banquet presented by Andrews & Andrews Attorneys at Law
The chamber’s annual meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a raffle and social hour. Dinner is served at 7 p.m.
Award recipients for 2012 are:
Sgt. Greg Sowell, Citizen of the Year sponsored by Tipton Ford
Heart of Texas Gift Gallery, Small Business of the Year.
Austin Bank, Texas N.A. - Nacogdoches, Medium Business of the Year sponsored by Regions Bank.
Hotel Fredonia, Large Business of the Year sponsored by R&K Distributors, Inc.