By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

Bank activity in the Central Texas area has been exploding lately because bankers as well as developers look at the numbers of people and income estimates and follow the money.

The most recent Census Bureau figures for Killeen's population show 100,913, up 16.11 percent from 2000, and the bureau projects another 10 percent increase by 2013. Harker Heights is expected to grow another 15.2 percent by that time.

Killeen bank deposits grew from $681 million in 2002 to $966 million in 2007, a 42 percent increase. Median household income in the city is estimated now at $49,910, expected to rise to $56,302 by 2013.

"Banks and developers look at all this," said Union State Bank president Coleen Beck. "The figures show far greater growth and expected growth than other areas around here, and they go where the money is. Major nationwide banks like the Bank of America started moving in to gain capital first, and the community banks follow."

Bank of America has three facilities in Temple and opened others in Killeen and Copperas Cove in 2003.

First Texas Bank president Patton Kaufman agrees with Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce president John Crutchfield that 100,000 is a magic number for population because cities that reach that mark show up in different categories on the Internet, generating more interest among investors. Kaufman and Beck both are staying quiet about whether their banks have plans to build any new facilities beyond USB's project already under way in Heights, but expansions of many other banks are under way.

The biggest geographical concentration is at Market Heights, where Chase Bank and the Bank of America are planning side-by-side facilities right across a driveway from a new branch of First National Bank Texas. Beck said Union State Bank is waiting on engineering drawings to begin work on a two-story building across U.S. 190 on Farm Road 2410 to replace a temporary building that has been the site of many outdoor civic functions over the past several months. The 12,000-square-foot structure will also have some rental office space on the second floor.

Dr. Ray Shanaa, Heights planning and development director, said this week that Texas Star Bank had filed a plat to build a facility at the intersection of Wildwood and Farm Road 2410, closer than the other banks to the mushrooming residential area to the south. He did not know much else about the company but said he expected the plat to be approved shortly.

A Web search showed seven Texas Star locations in Texas north of Dallas and one branch in Durant, Okla. The company was founded in 1890.

Among other banks, First State Bank Central Texas, which acquired another 740 square feet in its Heights location when the Ted Smith Law Firm moved into its own building next door, is planning to add another loan officer there and is renting office space on Farm Road 1113 in Copperas Cove to build business before establishing a branch in that town. President Randy Sutton said plans call for another facility in Killeen, but information about it is pending.

"This area is attracting a lot more attention now, with a higher profile on the Internet. Banks know there will be a lot more activity, and they want to be there to greet it," he said.

Wells Fargo Worldwide Military Banking has opened a loan production office in Killeen but isn't saying if there are future plans for the area. Wells Fargo offers Internet banking worldwide to military personnel and service veterans, said vice president and military affairs director Curtis Beauchamp in San Antonio.

"We go to Killeen now to meet with people by appointment," he said, adding that the company has supported the annual Hood Howdy event and actively supports military personnel and their families.

Michelle Burnett, marketing director of First National Bank Texas, said virtually identical new facilities will open July 28 in Cove and Aug. 1 at Market Heights. Each has 4,470 square feet and is certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the United States Green Vuilding Council. Each will have four drive-through lanes and one drive-through automated teller machine.

When the Cove branch opens, the facility across the street at 218 Town Square will close and branch manager Donna Werner will move with it. Jame Norcross will move from the bank's Taylor branch to lead the Heights facility.

Each branch will offer full services including an office of the bank's own First Community Mortgage, which celebrated its 20th anniversary with a noon barbecue Wednesday. The barbecue also honored FCM president Pam Carpenter, who has been with the company since its beginning.

"The openings July 28 and Aug. 1 will be 'soft openings'," Burnett said. "We'll schedule grand openings and ribbon-cuttings later and give away $500 gift cards."

Beck said, "The planners know we're not just an Army town anymore. Per capita income and stability keep increasing, and we're more and more prominent on the map."

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557.

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