BankPlus branch president banking on recovery

Dink Upchurch is the Hernando branch president of BankPlus in Hernando. A Greenwood native, Upchurch and his family have lived in DeSoto County for the past 10 years.

BankPlus Hernando branch president Dink Upchurch is banking on a sound economic recovery and the Greenwood native said all indications are that the nation is healing from its bout of the Great Recession flu.

On a busy Monday, Upchurch was meeting with homebuilders in a bustling area of Hernando.

"The economy seems to be coming back," said Upchurch from the cozy confines of his office inside the historic former Rawls Department store, also formerly the DeSoto Times-Tribune building.

The location on the historic DeSoto County Courthouse square was no accident.

"It's at the center of everything," said Upchurch. "The thing about being on the square is that everybody knows everybody. There is also so much that is going on."

A case in point is the recent Water Tower Festival in which Upchurch and some of his fellow bank colleagues competed in the barbecue cooking competition.

A row of trophies stands at the front counter to greet customers along with paintings from area artists.

"I've had people who walk in here off the square to look at the paintings on our wall," Upchurch said. "This building is very unique."

Upchurch said the same can also be said of Mississippi's fastest-growing county.

"I've been in some areas that I will call places, but this is a community," Upchurch said.

Upchurch, a 1980 graduate of Greenwood High School, is a 1986 graduate of Mississippi State University where he majored in agricultural economics.

"My goal was to get a job as an agricultural sales representative but they weren't hiring at that time," Upchurch said. "My dad worked for the Farmers Home Administration so I got a job as an agricultural lender. I was an ag lender for row crops, catfish and poultry through Farmers Home. We also did a lot of low-income housing."

In the 1990s, the Farmers Home Administration began furloughs and layoffs and Upchurch went to work for Community Bank as an agricultural lender in the small south Mississippi community of Laurel.

Upchurch, who also attended the University of Mississippi School of Banking and the Louisiana State University School of Banking, received a call from Worth Steen, DeSoto County President of BankPlus, with whom he had become acquainted while at the LSU School of Banking.

It was then that Steen decided to make the move to "the top of Mississippi."

"I've been here 10 years and wouldn't leave for anything," Upchurch said. "The people here are so accepting. This is a community where even being an outsider, I was accepted and fit in."

Upchurch, wife Teri and daughter Courtney, now, 20 and a junior at Ole Miss, are proud to call DeSoto County home, according to Upchurch.

Upchurch said he is also pleased that the county continues to grow, although the pace has slowed somewhat since the boom times of the mid 2000s.

"We made $17 million in loans this past year at this branch and the bank as a whole in DeSoto County, including its seven branches, made $91 million in loans, according to the latest figures."

"That's a sign to me we're on the way back up," Upchurch said.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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