Bill Blevins clutched the notebook that looked like something a college student might bring to the first day of class.
But this one had a blue and gold sticker on it with the letters “GCBB.” And it’s already full of notes. The letters stand for Gulf Coast Business Bank, a new community bank serving Southwest Florida that opened with a soft launch June 6 and celebrated its grand opening Thursday, with balloons, food trucks and live music.
The bank bought an older and shuttered branch at 12205 Metro Parkway in Fort Myers for $1.1 million, then renovated it before it had even raised the capital or gone through the regulatory process to open.
Blevins believed the moment would arrive because of the team he had assembled. “I think what makes us different is every one of those people out there is a shareholder,” he said of the bank’s executives. “We want everybody in our bank to make a decision like a president. All they want to do is to take care of you.”
Blevins said the plan isn’t to compete with credit unions or the big banks. “Our forte is going to be focused on the business client,” he said.
“We want to be a bank that is a connector. In other words, we help bring businesses together in the marketplace. If you’re a general contractor or a painter, and we can put two people together that would help them with their business, that’s ideal. A lot of banks used to do that. We don’t see that happen much anymore in the market.”
Guy Paparella, the chairman of the bank’s board of directors, said he jumped at the chance to assist Blevins. “I think the big draw for me was the passion Bill had,” he said. “You don’t get the same feel when you go into the bigger banks. It’s nice to be able to be able to come in the door right here at Gulf Coast Business Bank. You can see someone right away and get some answers.”
Blevins and his colleagues raised almost $24 million in capital to get started. Because they bought an existing branch, the building came with a vault with a steel door that appeared to be about a foot thick. Inside there was no cash and just a few safe-deposit boxes. As Blevins explained, the industry has become a cashless environment with banks doing money transfers electronically. It also has become a transitional environment with rising interest rates and inflation.
“Is the market going to slow down with the rising interest rate?” Blevins asked. “Of course. Do I think it’s going to be like 2008, ‘09 and ‘10? No. We didn’t build an oversupply. It’ll probably be more like ‘90 to ‘92. And it’s probably not a bad thing to slow the market down a little bit. Get inflation under control. That’s what the fed is trying to do. We understand that.”
The bank will “focus on dreams and goals,” a mantra that’s displayed on a neon sign affixed above the bank’s tellers.
As for that notebook, Blevins said he planned to share it someday with an FGCU economics class.
“I bought a little composition book,” he said. “Put a little GCBB sticker on the front. And pretty much kept all the notes in terms of the capital raised process. The regulatory process. Obviously, I’ve got volumes of stuff given to me by our attorneys. But this is more kind of like my bible.”