The First Bancshares Inc. reports a 35 percent increase in net earnings

Ray Cole
Ray Cole
The First Bancshares Inc. reports a 35 percent increase

The First Bancshares Inc., a holding company for The First, A National Banking Association headquartered in Hattiesburg, recently held its annual shareholder's meeting at the University of Southern Mississippi. It announced a 29.6 percent increase in first quarter net earnings and a 35.3 percent increase in 2015 net earnings.

The First is the sixth-largest bank in Mississippi, achieving that distinction in 20 years. It has grown to 32 locations across the Gulf South in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. It also has assets worth over $ 1.2 billion and more than 300 employees and 1,600 shareholders, most of whom are in South Mississippi.

Ray "Hoppy" Cole, president and CEO, said the bank was born in 1996, when a group of Hattiesburg-area businessmen came together to discuss creating a hometown bank that would grow its business by developing personal relationships.

"It's the culture created by our board of directors and shareholders and the people that carry out that mission," he said.