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Greenville Business Magazine

Mount Pleasant Headquarters Next Step in Beacon Bank’s Charleston-Focused Growth

Jun 28, 2022 05:26PM ● By David Dykes

(Officials gather for groundbreaking of new Beacon Community Bank corporate headquarters. Photo by David Caraviello.)

By David Caraviello

When a group of Charleston-area business leaders decided to start a bank in the spring of 2017, they began with no physical location or capital, and had yet to receive approval from the FDIC or the state of South Carolina.

And yet there they were Tuesday, June 28, 2022, thrusting light-blue shovels into the earth in Mount Pleasant to break ground on a headquarters that will house 45 employees and oversee $430 million in assets.

Indeed, it’s been a long journey in a short time for Beacon Community Bank, which has eyed building a headquarters on the two-acre parcel along U.S. Highway 17 since 2019, according to President and CEO Brooks Melton. 

The coronavirus pandemic delayed that project, but not the bank’s growth — from a first branch opened in downtown Charleston in 2018, Beacon has expanded to additional locations in Mount Pleasant and on Daniel Island, with more growth on the horizon.

“The market has accepted us wholeheartedly,” Melton said after the groundbreaking.

But there was no guarantee of that five years ago, when Beacon’s founding board members began working their connections to try and raise the money to get the bank off the ground.

“We had 40 lunches to raise $34 million in capital when we started this thing,” said Chairman Tommy Baker. “To put it all together and look at where we are, it’s just phenomenal.”

‘All the small banks had gone away’

Baker and Vice Chairman Jim Smith had both been on the board at Southcoast Community Bank, which opened 10 locations in the Charleston area and managed nearly $500 million in assets before being acquired in 2016 by BNC Bancorp. 

Southcoast was one of the few community banks that had survived unscarred from the Great Recession, leaving a noticeable gap among smaller lenders that Beacon’s founders hoped to fill.

“They had always talked about doing their own thing, and doing it better,” Melton said of Baker and Smith. “So here we are.”

Beacon was the first new bank chartered by the state of South Carolina in a decade, according to Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie, who attended the groundbreaking along with leaders from the nearby Six Mile community.

Beacon is one of three community banks now operating in the greater Charleston market, though the only one founded and based in the Lowcountry.

“When we were forming it, we realized that there used to be almost 10 community banks,” Melton said. “And now there was only one. All the small banks had gone away. But the need and the demand for a community bank, that didn’t go away.”

Beacon opened its first branch on East Bay Street with 14 full-time employees in January of 2018, crossing the $50 million mark in assets eight months later. The next year it opened a second branch in southern Mount Pleasant, and exceeded $100 million in assets. 

During the height of the Covid-19 outbreak, Beacon loaned out $50 million to local businesses through the federal Payroll Protection Program. 

Expansion focused on metro Charleston

Beacon’s focus so far has been exclusively on the Charleston area, a concentration evident in a 19-member board composed largely of those with ties to the region’s business and hospitality industries.

Within the next year, Beacon plans to open three new branches: its headquarters in northern Mount Pleasant, a location in Sea Island Shopping Center near where Mount Pleasant meets Sullivan’s Island, and its first branch in North Charleston.

“We have a lot on the drawing board right now,” Melton said.

The Sea Island Shopping Center location is expected to open in September of this year, Melton said, with the North Charleston branch slated to follow in the first quarter of 2023 and the headquarters location in Mount Pleasant in mid-2023.

The site of Beacon’s headquarters, which had previously been in unincorporated Charleston County, has been annexed by the town of Mount Pleasant, Haynie added. 

Hill Construction of Charleston, which built Beacon’s Spring Street office, is also constructing its airy, two-story headquarters building.

There are no plans, Melton added, to expand outside of the greater Charleston area. Beacon since its founding has made commercial and consumer loans to largely local customers, and prides itself on making some loans that larger financial institutions are unable or unwilling to make.

“We have built this bank on service and relationships,” Melton said, “and we will continue to do that.”