Banks, BDA turn lemons into lemonade
by Jeff Latcham
Jan 14, 2011 | 1101 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s no secret that one of the shortfalls of the laws under which the Bee Development Authority was created is the lack of a regular funding mechanism.

But if readers think that’s bad, they need only look at the now defunct Bee County Development Corporation. BCDC was founded in the 1960s by civic-minded businesses – including Beeville’s three community banks – who thought Beeville needed an industrial park. Each contributed as it could to raise the money to purchase what over time became home to industries like May Fabricating and Modern Pipe. No one ever turned a profit – or even a dividend – off of BCDC; it was purely non-profit and for the public good.

Spurred by the early successes, BCDC’s board decided it needed additional property to market and the volunteers took out a note with Beeville’s three banks to purchase an additional 46 acres in 1976. The idea was to pay off the note with the proceeds from sales. Sometime in the 1980s, the volunteer board somehow erred in selling off some acreage and cutting off its own access to the remaining 42 raw acres directly south of the existing park.

There remained a handful of accessible – curbed and guttered – lots in the developed section that sold increasingly infrequently over the years to entities such as Bonnie Plant Farms. The proceeds from the slow sale of these dwindling community assets were applied to the note principal. The 42 acres, which was leased out for agriculture, paid the taxes but were landlocked for development by the railroad right of way between them and the highway on one side and Capehart Subdivision on the other.

The banks continued to carry the note as goodwill for the community for some 34 years. BCDC was stuck with no funding, no staffing and no access to its own property until BDA agreed to purchase the property in 2009. BCDC then could shut down and the banks could finally close their books on the note.

The transfer made sense since BDA had the staffing and funding to acquire the railroad right of way and market the property for the economic development purposes it was intended.

With the story in today’s issue of BDA selling the 42 acres to Big Chief RV Parks and Cabins of Ponca City, Okla., to develop as a much needed RV park and modular motel, a figurative bow is tied on this civic project.

This is a win-win for all, beginning with the original businesses that ponied up contributions for industrial development and ending with the BDA which stepped in to resolve an insolvent issue.

The big debt of gratitude, however, goes to Beeville’s community banks that held the note as a civic trust, forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost interest over some 34 years. The participating banks – the former Commercial National Bank of Beeville, the former State Bank & Trust, First National Bank of Beeville and Prosperity Bank – were the ones left holding the bag.

Banks in general take a beating in today’s headlines. This little story, however, points to the some of the vast differences between the Wall Street banks and the ones on Main Street. Bankers by nature are a conservative lot, so we won’t suggest you give your local community banker a hug, but a hearty handshake and thank you wouldn’t be out of line.

This isn’t a sexy, multimillion dollar deal, but it’s a feel-good story of which Beevillians should be proud. It’s just neighbors working together as one for the benefit of all.

Editor’s note: It should be noted that Latcham served as the final president of BCDC and serves on the board of the First National Bank of Beeville.
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