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12:26 AM Mon, Jan. 21st

Golden Valley feels the pinch of a key service lost

GOLDEN VALLEY - National Bank of Arizona's Golden Valley branch will close July 20, leaving the rural community that already doesn't have a grocery store without a local bank branch.

"We don't enter into these decisions lightly," said Brent Cannon, director of community banking for the National Bank of Arizona. "We have gone years trying to maintain a banking network that has seen annualized reductions in transactions and the number of people coming in.

"When the customers aren't using a branch at a level that makes economic sense, we have to make a difficult decision."

The branch is scheduled to close July 20. Customers with safe deposit boxes have been asked to remove the contents by June 29.

Branch closings are nothing new in the banking world. Thousands of branches have been shut down across the country in recent years. The causes cited include increased online and mobile banking, meaning fewer people use those branches, and low interest rates and higher regulation costs, which put pressure on banks' bottom lines.

Bruce Hopkins, a self-described snowbird who spends a good part of the year in Golden Valley, said the bank's decision would make life a little more difficult for many of the community's residents.

"There's a real mix of people out here. You've got the poorest of the poor, and you've got a lot of retirees," he said. "They can't afford to go to Kingman to go to the bank. That takes gas money that they don't have. I know people who ride their four-wheelers to the bank because they don't have driver's licenses."

Others have limited mobility or are no longer able to drive, he said, stressing that there's more to his complaint than the convenience.

"My main concerns are the businesses," he said. "They've got to get rid of their cash at the end of the day, or sometimes in the middle of the day, and they can't run back and forth to Kingman to do that. They're putting themselves at risk for robbery."

The Golden Valley bank's customers will have options, Cannon said. They can use online or mobile banking - "smartphones become a heck of a branch," he said - and the company may maintain an ATM location there.

That won't be a solution for everyone, said Hopkins, including himself. He had some of his credit card information stolen a few years ago, he said, so now he handles his finances in person, not electronically.

That's true of many of his fellow Golden Valley residents, Hopkins added. "This is the Wild West out here," he said. "The electronic generation isn't here. I know that they have a customer base that would keep the bank going."

Cannon said the bank will try to relocate the affected employees in other locations, but acknowledged that not all jobs can be retained.

Golden Valley had 8,370 residents in the 2010 Census.