April 18, 2007 — Frederiksted welcomed FirstBank Virgin Islands to the town Wednesday afternoon in true Crucian style with a quelbe band, speeches and a scrumptious buffet. Community leaders hailed the new bank branch saying it would bring a needed economic boost to the West End.
FirstBank employees proudly showed off their newly renovated building and state-of-the-art banking facilities on Strand Street. It was a festive occasion with the sounds of the St. Croix Educational Complex quelbe band providing the cultural background music. People milled around, waiting for the speeches to begin, while the older generation reminisced on the days the building used to be the Frederiksted movie theatre.
"This is the most expensive facility per square foot," said FirstBank Executive Vice President Cassan Pancham of the new building. "We honored the tradition of the community," he said, referring to the strict guidelines imposed on building architecture and design in the Frederiksted historic district.
Calling Frederiksted an "incredible town," Pancham said to those assembled, "Now we will aggressively push the administration to bring cruise ships back to Frederiksted."
In a show of solidarity to the town, FirstBank officials presented a check for $10,000 to the Frederiksted Economic Development Association (FEDA).
"We are ecstatic about the future of Frederiksted," said FEDA Chairman Rupert Ross, adding that the organization and FirstBank have been working in partnership "for years."
One of the Wednesday's speakers was Darrel Brow, a 10-year FirstBank executive. He reflected on growing up in Frederiksted and how the new business enhanced the town.
"I was born, raised, bred and fed in Frederiksted," said Brow. "Over the years, many people have asked me when FirstBank would bring a branch to Frederiksted." Brow said his answer would always be "soon." He said the Frederiksted Economic Revitalization plan, which included the renovation of the waterfront, convinced bank executives that the time was right to open a West End branch.
St. Croix Administrator Pedro Encarnacion brought a message from Gov. John deJongh Jr., who was unable to attend the ceremony. "Frederiksted is taking a leap forward," said Encarnacion, adding that the governor "gives Frederiksted his full support."
Lt. Governor Gregory Francis, who is also the chairman of the Banking Board, said the opening of the bank "signifies progress and economic growth" for the town.
"It's a remarkable day," Francis said. "Frederiksted is showing signs of revitalization" and would soon be "a bustling seaport with cruise ships."
After Francis and other representatives cut the ribbon to the bank, residents got a chance to check out the new facility, where they were served cake and punch.
The new facility offers an ATM, night depository outlet, an express deposit machine, an internet banking kiosk and a host of service representatives and banking consultants. The branch exhibits FirstBank's signature design of glass, contemporary furnishings and fixtures and, of course, their trademark green.
In 2002, after acquiring the Chase Manhattan Bank operations, FirstBank became the largest bank network in the U.S. Virgin Islands serving St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, as well as Tortola and Virgin Gorda in the BVI.
In the Eastern Caribbean region, the corporation operates FirstBank, in addition to the subsidiaries First Express, a finance company specializing in the origination of small loans; and First Insurance, a full service insurance agency.
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