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New BankPlus facility leading the way for investment

Over its history, BankPlus has earned a reputation for serving the underserved. Founded in Belzoni in the Mississippi Delta, the $1.7-billion financial institution now has 61 offices in 34 Mississippi communities.

On May 7, city, county and state public officials and community leaders gathered on Dalton Street in Jackson to celebrate the grand opening of BankPlus’ newest office. The facility is located immediately adjacent to Jackson State University (JSU), and represents a commitment and partnership not only between BankPlus and JSU, but the neighboring community, as well.

Bill Ray, president and CEO of BankPlus, said, “We firmly believe that there is great business potential in the area surrounding Jackson State University, and are doing everything we can to lead the way for the private industry’s involvement in its revitalization.”

‘Over delivered’

At the ground opening, BankPlus regional president and senior executive vice president Gene Delcomyn divulged that when talks about the Dalton Street office began, JSU president Dr. Ronald Mason asked for simply a branch office. Mason has launched his E-city initiative, aimed at growing and improving the JSU campus and encouraging business growth in the surrounding neighborhood.

But the new office is more than a branch bank. Thus, Delcomyn proudly said that BankPlus had “over delivered” on what Mason was asking for, and Mason nodded in agreement.

The new office offers full-service banking, including extended hours. But, the facility is two stories, with the second floor devoted to community-building efforts for those living in the troubled neighborhood.

Debra McGee, director of minority business development at BankPlus, said, “We are firmly committed to serving all the communities of the metro Jackson area, and want to help people use financial services wisely and build wealth. And working through churches, JSU and other institutions, we will provide financial classes and services for individuals and business owners to show them a better way.”

Rev. LaVaughn Wiggins led the invocation at the grand opening. His Epiphany Lutheran Church stands just a few doors down from the new BankPlus facility. He has seen firsthand the needs of the community’s residents, and believes in feeding the body as well as the soul.

“This is just so positive, the reversal of years of stagnant development,” he said. “This bank offers important economic stability to this community and the families that live here.”

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton pointed toward nearby Blackburn Middle School. “Watch those kid’s grades start going up. Watch crime start going down,” he said.

The opening of the office was especially rewarding for David Johnson Sr. He is senior vice president and director of community development at BankPlus. He is also a graduate (1982) of JSU.

“I never imagined that I would be able to return here and be a part in the community’s rebirth. It is just tremendously exciting for me,” he said.

Ripple effect

Excitement was indeed rampant among those at the May 7 ceremony. Downtown Jackson is in the midst of revitalization. The renovation of the King Edward Hotel, numerous mixed-use developments underway or planned and the new Metro Parkway, which connects JSU with downtown, are just a few of the projects that have many optimistic about the Capital City’s future. The addition of the new bank, which will be led by Anthony Webb, a JSU alumnus, is another step toward revitalization.

In fact, the facility itself offers an example of positive redevelopment. The property was the former location of a dilapidated barbershop. According to Delcomyn, BankPlus worked on the plans for the new bank for approximately two years, half of that time devoted to acquiring the property. He said the land was divided into numerous parcels, all owned by different people. Delcomyn praised many, especially city economic development leader Jimmy Heidel and Secretary of State Eric Clark for their assistance in nailing down the acquisition of the land.

According to BankPlus, the multi-million-dollar Dalton Street facility represents the largest private investment of its kind in this part of the city in the last 30 years, and represents a significant new investment in the Metro Parkway/JSU corridor.

And, more development is underway or planned on the JSU campus as well as the areas bordering the university. Standing in the parking lot of the new bank, construction of JSU’s new student center dominates the skyline. Not yet obvious, but coming, is University Park. Mason said the mixed-use development would offer both residential and commercial space and would be located adjacent to the new BankPlus facility.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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