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Robert Trigaux

Upbeat tone from 'Best Bank in Town' CEO



KellykinguseBB&TCEO Wow. Modest signs of optimism about the Tampa Bay economy.... from a banker! Things must be getting better, ever so slowly. Housing is showing some life and, the banker says, the pace of people starting to move to Florida is finally starting to pick up.

Last Friday, Kelly King, CEO since January of BB&T -- the North Carolina-based banking company that's managed to avoid the worst damage hitting the banking industry -- spoke about the economy in those markets where BB&T operates. BB&T's recently taken to calling itself "Best Bank in Town"-- a play off its initials -- so let's hope the puffery won't come back to haunt it. BB&T's 107 branches in Florida make it the 11th largest bank in the state by share of deposits. (Photo courtesy of BB&T.)

In conference call Friday with analysts (here it is in its entirety) about its quarterly earnings, King gave an overview of the Florida housing market, suggesting the state recovers from housing downturns "south to north." He said:

"... So Palm Beach, you know, Miami area got hit first...  Tampa Bay, Orlando, Naples, Fort Myers got hit first and it’s kind of moved its way up to the Jacksonville area. Clearly, sales in Orlando and the Tampa Bay area are up over last year. I think that’s a very good sign. Prices are down 20 percent but still things are moving."

King also expects Florida's population to pick up, which will spur housing.

"Just got some recent information that we now have again positive in migration in Florida. The governor’s prediction which, you know, you might have to discount some, but his prediction is that there’ll be 25 million people in Florida by 2015. I sort of would discount that some, but I will remind you there are 18 million people there today. So it’s a big market and a lot of people creating households still. And so there’s going to be a demand for housing in that market."

Then King succinctly described some of the major housing markets in Florida:

* Fort Myers... "is still a mess."

* Tampa, Orlando... "is moving."

* Miami-Dade... "condos are a problem (while) single family are beginning to move better."

 So it’s "spotty, "King told analysts, "but certainly not in an aggregate overall freefall like it was a year ago." Hey, given the flood of negative data we've absorbed for months, that's almost bullish.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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