VALDOSTA -- More than 700 customers will be without a local bank come Sept. 20 when SunTrust closes its only branch in Valdosta.

SunTrust notified its customers by letter at the end of June that the branch would be closing due to "an extensive evaluation of our existing branch network." Located in the Publix Super Market since October 1997, the bank has offered to service customer's accounts at its other branches, but the closest locations are in Tifton and Thomasville.

Nancy Norton, vice president of public relations for SunTrust at their main office in Atlanta, said the company is constantly evaluating its branch network system to achieve profitability. "We felt it would be best to apply our resources where we have a stronger presence."

The branch has three employees, and Norton said that every effort would be made to offer them other opportunities within the bank system and the company will also offer severance packages.

Customers with safety deposit boxes have the option of moving them to another branch with the offer of one year free rental.

Publix manager Johnnie Clark said SunTrust notified the store last month that the branch would be closing when its lease expires in September. He said the supermarket has no plans to replace the bank at this time and will find another use for the space currently occupied by SunTrust.

Clark said Publix has its own ATM machine, and the grocery store's customers will not be inconvenienced by the bank's closing.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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