Icon (Close Menu)


Batesville’s First Community Bank Joins $2B ClubLock Icon

5 min read
First Community Bank Dale Cole 138583
Dale Cole, chairman and CEO of First Community Bank in Batesville, has led the _cutline billion-asset lender since its start in 1997. ( Karen E. Segrave)

Back in 2001, a makeshift hairdresser’s space was set up in the lobby of First Community Bank in Batesville. In the lender’s main office, stylists transformed a pair of top executives into literal “blue hairs.”

Armed with dye, beauticians applied “First Community” blue to the coifs of Dale Cole and Boris Dover in recognition of the bank reaching $200 million in total assets. Done as a lark 20 years ago, the happy occasion generated unwarranted concern that the wrong type of colorant was used, the kind that doesn’t rinse out.

Recently, the bank repeated the celebratory salon treatment for Cole, chairman and CEO, and Dover, president and chief operating officer. This time, the temporary tinting marked the crossing of a much bigger fiscal threshold: $2 billion.

It’s a number that Cole didn’t envision when he began organizing the startup venture in 1996.

“I thought we’d be successful and get up to $250 million in assets,” he said of early aspirations. “Now, we’re looking toward that next milestone of $3 billion. I think we can see that in the next three to four years.”

The bank continues gearing up for more growth and expanding its facilities accordingly. In mid-October, about 100 staffers moved into First Community’s new 28,800-SF operations center housing mortgage, brokerage, insurance and other departments.

The three-story building is linked with the 43,000-SF headquarters by a 170-foot skybridge that spans 14th Street. Home to 75 employees, the main building can accommodate 125.

2022 features a busy slate of projects throughout First Community’s footprint after a busy year-end, when it opened a loan production office in Beebe and purchased Price & Co., an independent insurance agency in Arkadelphia.

Bids will go out this month for construction of the bank’s new and bigger 16,000-SF main branch in Conway. First Community will acquire a former Great Southern Bank branch to enter the Joplin market and increase its presence in southwestern Missouri.

It also plans to build a replacement branch in Lepanto.

The first of two staffers soon will move into leased quarters to start a loan production office in Rogers. The company also plans to open a loan production office in Arkadelphia later this year.

“Jonesboro is our northwest Arkansas,” Dover said. The bank has opened four more branches in the Jonesboro area since entering the market in 2014.

First Community is digging deeper into the Little Rock market with a two-story, 16,000-SF banking center at 17820 Chenal Parkway. The $5.2 million project, rolling toward an expected opening in April, will house an unusual amenity dubbed First Community Bank Cafe.

Positioned primarily as a lunch option, the eatery will offer free milkshakes for customers and will be staffed by a helpful attendant extending a “Do you bank with First Community?” to visitors.

The new Little Rock office will also sport other features that came out of local focus group studies.

“They told us there’s no place for recycling glass and suggested a green wall [a live covering of flora] inside the building to promote the environment, along with an electric car-charging station,” Cole said. “The cafe idea came out of the staff here. I thought we’d try something a little different to get that young person or young parent in our bank.”

An electric vehicle-charging station is coming to the Batesville headquarters after an employee query.

“It’s goodwill and a good purpose, and maybe we’ll get a customer or two,” Cole said.

First Community Bank Joins _cutlineB Club 138583
In October, First Community Bank of Batesville opened its operations center linked with its headquarters by a 170-foot skybridge. ( Photo provided)

Batesville Move

Cole began his banking career in 1974 at Texas Bank & Trust in Dallas. He was president and COO of BancTexas in McKinney, Texas, when Little Rock’s Worthen Banking Corp. recruited him to lead its First National Bank of Batesville.

“Dale, would you like to be a CEO?” Cole recalled the headhunter asking in 1987.

Batesville’s First National became Worthen National Bank in 1991, which became Boatmen’s National Bank in 1995.

That led to Cole taking an early retirement package from Boatmen’s in 1996, a year after the St. Louis-headquartered lender acquired Worthen Banking Corp.

“I’m just one of the casualties out of their restructuring,” he said at the time.

Later that year, Cole was off and running to form First Community Bank.

“Our group is specifically looking long term to provide service to the community and not to sell,” he said back in 1996. That outlook has held true.

Over the years, the original roster of 153 shareholders that launched First Community has doubled to 320, largely through holdings divided among founding family members.

“What I told every potential shareholder is that I’m not starting a new bank,” Cole said. “I’m moving a bank.”

That translated into nearly a third of Boatmen’s local deposits moving to First Community as former stockholders and customers in the original First National followed Cole. Deposits at Boatmen’s in Batesville fell from $120 million to $80 million during First Community’s first 12 months of operations.

Top 10 Shareholders in First Community Bancshares Inc.

Sheila Wagnon, Texarkana



Preston Grace III, Batesville



Donald Bedell, Sikeston, Mo.



Verlene House, Batesville



Dale Cole, Batesville

chairman, president and CEO


Dianne Lamberth, Batesville



Raymond LaCroix Jr., Batesville



Rick Kent, Batesville



Boris Dover, Batesville

executive vice president


Frank Tripp, Batesville



Newly chartered and opened for business in August 1997, First Community debuted among six de novo banks that year in Arkansas.

In a no-rent-for-12-months deal, the bank opened its doors for business in a 7,800-SF building at 710 St. Louis St. that originally housed a local Arkansas Power & Light office.

First Community launched with starting capital of $3.4 million and 14 employees, all former First National/Worthen/Boatmen’s staffers in Batesville. Since then, Cole has overseen three additional stock sales to raise capital.

In all, First Community shareholders invested $33 million. The last stock offering in 2010 raised $16 million.

With total assets of $215 million, First Community ranked No. 39 among Arkansas banks 20 years ago not long after Cole and Dover received their blue hairdos. Since 2013, First Community has positioned itself among the 10 largest banks in the state.

“We’ve been able to sustain that growth with our earnings,” Cole said.

After an abbreviated retirement in 1996, he isn’t looking to step away from the business on the way to his golden anniversary as banker. “I’m 73 years old, my health is strong, so I’m going to continue to work,” Cole said.

First Community Bank, Batesville
Total Assets: $1.9 billion
Net Income: $17.7 million
Dividends: $1.5 million
Staff: 453    
Full-Service Locations: 24 Arkansas branches and four in Missouri
(As of Sept. 30)


Total Assets

Net Income


Efficiency Ratio



















































All dollars in thousands except where noted.
Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Send this to a friend