Southern Utah's rapid growth has translated into a new commercial bank for St. George, the first for the community in 21 years.

Village Bank, a state-chartered bank with headquarters in the southwestern Utah town of 43,000, opened its doors Aug. 7.

The institution is the first commercial bank organized in Utah in three years.

Doug Bringhurst, chief executive, said Village Bank will serve St. George's rapidly increasing population and growing small-business market.

"There is no one major employer in town, but there are a lot of small and medium-size businesses," he said. "That's who we feel we can best serve, the smaller businesspeople."

St. George, spurred by retirees and families moving in from California, has doubled in size over the past six years. The town's population swells an additional 6,000 in winter as seasonal vacationers arrive from the north.

"The area's growth rate is between 6% and 8%, and it's not projected to slow down," Mr. Bringhurst said.

Competition won't be in short supply for Village Bank, which was started with $2.5 million in capital. Sun Capital Bank, with assets of more than $60 million, is based in St. George along with a pair of savings and loans.

In addition, Zions First National Bank, Salt Lake City, Far West Bank, Provo, First Security Bank of Utah, Ogden, State Bank of Southern Utah, Cedar City, and the former First Interstate Bank of Utah, Salt Lake City, now Wells Fargo & Co., have branches in town.

"We have several banks in town, but we've also had a very good response from people within the town and have opened up a lot of accounts," he said.

Mr. Bringhurst is well known in St. George banking circles. He spent 17 years with Dixie State Bank, which was headquartered in the town until it was bought by First Security in April 1993.

Mr. Bringhurst said he has brought several former Dixie State Bank employees onboard, and he hopes to rekindle old relationships started before First Security came into town.

Lawrence W. Alder, president, Utah Bankers Association, Salt Lake City, said the state has experienced solid growth for some time, but he pointed to several reasons why few new banks have opened.

"We've had statewide branching for years, and a lot of the major players are already here throughout the state," he said. "There are also plenty of well-financed, strong community banks in place, and the credit union movement is stronger in Utah than in many other comparable states."

Mr. Bringhurst said the first step toward opening Village Bank was the purchase of a suitable operation site. In 1993, Mr. Bringhurst and five other prominent businessmen bought and began restoring the town's post office, built in 1937.

Under the eye of the state historical society, the group spent $450,000 to renovate the structure, which included decorating the lobby in a 1930s style.

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