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Local banks see growth in years since economic downturn

The big drive lately has been with Farmers' and UCFC's stock prices

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - Thirty years ago this week was the big stock market crash. Then in 2008, there was the big economic downturn. Two Mahoning County banks with headquarters 15 miles apart have weathered those storms and are now thriving.

Farmers National Bank and Home Savings had different paths through the 2008 crisis. Farmers had a strong capital position, while United Community Financial Corp. (UCFC) had some dark moments when the financial bubble burst.

But now, each is enjoying a strong position.

"Businesses and consumers are minding their money very well and so what's good for them is good for us," said UCFC CEO Gary Small.

"We've seen some above average growth because of that, because we're paying attention to those customers and those communities that maybe not every bank wants to pay attention to," said Farmers CEO Kevin Helmick.

Home Savings has grown its commercial business over 30 percent a year in each of the last four years. It's also added private banking and wealth management.

Small said they're benefitting from a good economy and consumer and business environment.

"That's all we need to have success."

Farmers has seen its increase by working the hubs and spokes off of small businesses, plus feeding in consumer areas like home mortgages and car loans.

"Giving them access to credit, reasonable terms and reasonable rates, and it drives so many things," Helmick said.

The big drive lately has been with the two companies' stock prices.

Helmick took over at Farmers in 2013 and Gary Small at UCFC in 2014. Lately, each company is seeing multi-year highs with its stock price.

"We definitely see that. We know people are paying attention and I think at our size company, we have some good-sized investors that we understand are paying attention as well," Helmick said.

"Everybody's pockets are feeling a little bit better as over the last four years, our stocks have gone from in the high $3 range to now trading in the high $9 range. So that's good, obviously," Small said.

Each bank has a market cap of over $400 million, signifying strong underlying net worths.

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