First Bank breaks ground in Belle Glade

Officers with First Bank were on-hand Tuesday morning to usher in the company’s first venture into Palm Beach County. The longtime Hendry County stalwart broke ground on its newest location, a Belle Glade bank that is expected to open later this year.

Joined by local business and city leaders in attendance wishing the company a successful future, Miller Couse, First Bank president and CEO, shared his enthusiasm for the new location and led the dignitaries in the ceremonial first shovel of dirt.

“We’re excited about being here,” said Mr. Couse.

First Bank will be opening what it calls a loan production office at the 325 South Main Street location. The building will be approximately 2,000 square feet. According to Mali Gardner, vice president at First Bank, the company has long been partnering with Glades businesses, which made its expansion into Belle Glade the next logical step.

Juan Cardenas, First Bank project manager, thanked the city of Belle Glade for making the company’s transition into its newest location as smooth as possible. According to Mr. Cardenas, the city made it possible for First Bank to move quickly on the construction of the building, calling it a “smooth process.”

One participant in Tuesday’s event was Commissioner Michael Martin, who welcomed the company into Belle Glade by recalling First Bank’s investment in his then-nascent company 20 years ago.

“They lent me the money to start my business,” recalled Commissioner Martin. “They took a chance on me.”

Brenda Bunting, on behalf of the Belle Glade Chamber of Commerce, also greeted First Bank.

“We welcome First Bank to our city and look forward to seeing the good things they’re going to do for this area,” said Mrs. Bunting.

Lomax Harrelle, Belle Glade city manager, said that once First Bank approached the city with plans for the new location, his staff did everything possible to fast track the idea. On the morning of the groundbreaking, the city met with company officials to hammer out some of the final details relating to permitting, and expected to hand the company its permits on the next day.

Mr. Harrelle said he too is excited about the new business opening.

“In our opinion, First Bank picked a great location,” he said.

If all goes as planned, the new location is expected to be completely constructed by the end of 2015. Pittman Construction is the general contractor, and expects to employ Glades residents in the construction of the new bank.

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