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Good for the community
Banker keeps involved with youth sports
Derrick Smith, who has been in banking here for more than 30 years, stands with Heather Weddell, Sara Norwood and Pat Elliott. - photo by Photo provided.

Derrick Smith is a very busy man. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Among other things, Smith is vice president of First Bank of Coastal Georgia in Richmond Hill.

"My primary job is to run the day-to-day functions of this office and create earning assets for the bank in terms of loans and larger types of commercial loans," he said.

Smith has been in banking more than 30 years and has worked for First Bank more than 15. Smith supervises 10 associates at the bank and he doesn’t see himself doing anything else.

"Our banking charter was formed in 1907, making it the oldest bank in the county. We’ve been in Pembroke since 1907 and Richmond Hill since 1972."

Smith talks with a great deal of enthusiasm when two of his favorite subjects come up—growth in Bryan County and Richmond Hill, which works out well since the mission of his bank is to mirror the needs of the community. Most know that residential construction is a driving force in the community and the bank makes a fair amount of residential mortgage loans.

"Richmond Hill is a growing community so we do a lot of construction loans. Also, a lot of personal loans when people need money for car repairs, educational loans, home additions, or whatever. We are a small town bank, that’s our niche. That’s just where we want to be."

Smith says the banks assets top $125 million.

"We’re just trying to service the needs of our community. We’re part of the community."

When Smith isn’t tending to the financial needs of the community, he serves on the Bryan County school system’s citizen advisory council and as chairman of the Development Authority of Bryan County—two more of his passions.

"I’ve been on the development authority about nine years, currently as the chairman. This is my third one-year term. I oversee the meetings and work very closely with our CEO - Anna Chafin—who’s been with us three years. Mine is a volunteer position.

"The development authority has made some major purchases of real estate. Our industrial park in Black Creek is a good example. It’s brought a lot of opportunities for our people. A lot of jobs. It’s brought tax revenues and future revenues. It’s also brought disposable dollars to our community for individuals to spend.

"I’m very blessed to be able to live and work in the community I was reared in. I’d like to give that opportunity to other people. As residents, we spend a lot of money to keep our neighborhoods safe and sound, we provide very good recreational opportunities and have a very good school system. We do all those things but when our child graduate either high school or higher learning, we take them to the edge and tell them to go somewhere else to get s good paying job.

"That’s a little of the cycle I want to help break. And it’s moving in that direction. We’ve had a couple of larger employers like Caesarstone and Daniel Defense. We have many locals working there. Daniel Defense has recently announced their expansion plans and they’ll be hiring more people."

Smith estimates that at least 1,000 new jobs have been created in the county as a result of new businesses moving here and existing businesses expanding.

"And it’s not always the direct jobs, it’s also the indirect jobs. You have 100 people work and move here, for example, then those 100 people buy groceries here and shop at our other local stores and those places need to add employees to keep pace with demand. It’s a ripple effect. That’s new dollars in our community.

"I’m also on a drive to try and help the work force in Bryan County become more attractive to industry. I’d like to get a career academy started. It’s kind of like a spin off from Savannah Tech College, like they have in Effingham and Liberty counties. There are plenty of people who are not going to go to college.

"We need the trades like plumbers, carpenters, HVAC technicians, electricians and others.

"The citizen advisory council is another passion of mine. We meet every month or so with school superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher. We talk about any community concerns about the schools and he goes over any issues the school system is going through. It’s a nice tie-in with what the development authority is doing with trying to develop the workforce.

Smith is also an active member of the local Rotary Club and works with teachers at Richmond Hill High School.

Family activities also occupy a great deal of Smith’s time. He is married to Melissa and they have four children, Chadwick, 30, Megan, 25, Miranda, 18, and Jeremy, 14.

"I love spending time with my family and doing things with them. That’s very important to me."

Another passion of Smith’s is sports—more particularly baseball. In fact, like many young Americans, he harbored aspirations of becoming a professional baseball player. But, again, like most young Americans, the reality doesn’t always fit the fantasy.

But the Richmond Hill native has found a way to bridge, somewhat, the two. Smith has been involved in local recreational sports throughout his children’s youth.

"I loved working with mine and the other kids. I loved coaching them and seeing their progress on the playing fields.

He has also seen many changes in Richmond Hill in the 57 years he has called the city home.

"I think some of the best changes in the community—because of the way we’re structured—we’ve attracted a lot of talented people that share the interest of living in a good community. They want good schools, good recreational opportunities and a safe community to live in. I see them on the ball fields and in the stores. They’re an important part of this county.

"In the future, other changes will include more jobs and more retail possibilities.

"We’ll get the Applebee’s and the Outbacks. They follow trends. They follow people. When we get the number of people they feel will make their move a success, they’ll be here. They’re coming. Those changes are coming."

"I love this community so much. Being on the coast, we have limited land possibilities. We have to think about our future and where we are headed and growing. I think our government entities are looking for opportunities to expand and grow. Growth is good for our community."

And so are the Derrick Smiths of the worlds.

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