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Tom Martin marks 50 years in community banking in Gwinnett

Tom Martin, the founder of Gwinnett Community Bank, recently celebrated 50 years in the banking industry.

Tom Martin, the founder of Gwinnett Community Bank, recently celebrated 50 years in the banking industry.

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Recently honored for 50 years in the banking industry by the Community Bankers Association of Georgia, Tom Martin, the chairman and CEO of Gwinnett Community Bank, is pictured with his son John (left), the president of the bank.

DULUTH — As a 19-year-old college student, Tom Martin just wanted a job.

But 50 years after taking a job as a bank teller Martin knows he not only found a job — he found a career.

While attending college classes at night, Martin worked his way up from teller to president of Bank of Duluth. When the bank was sold, he opened a new one, Citizens Bank of Gwinnett, and when that one was sold, he opened Gwinnett Community Bank.

“In this 50-year career, I’ve been with three different banks, but they have all been in this community within three miles of each other,” Martin said. “The thing that I’ve always liked about this is it gave me an opportunity to come to work in the community where I live.”

Through his work, Martin has played a hand in thousands of homes built in Gwinnett. He’s helped people buy cars and build businesses.

He admits the good years have been really good to him, allowing him to make a lot of money.

And the bad years were not so bad — until the Great Recession hit five years ago.

After decades in banking and two other recessions under his belt, Martin thought he would know what to expect when the economy crashed five years ago.

Gwinnett Community Bank wasn’t a part of the sub-prime lending market that was decimated by foreclosures, but the overall housing problems reached into the bank ledgers, he said, and new accounting principles meant that the bank had to bear the losses of property values even when it held onto its assets.

In a time when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation closed dozens of local community banks, Martin worried. But he was touched by the outpouring of the community, who gave $5 million when the bank needed it for a capital campaign in 2009.

“That’s a tremendous testimony,” Martin said. “We told them it would not solve our problems, but it would get us over the hump.”

And it did.

Martin is now hopeful that the economy is picking up speed, and the bank has returned to profitability.

With his son John now marching in his footsteps as president of the bank he serves as chairman and CEO, Martin has been a leader in state and federal community banking associations.

He has played a big role as a community volunteer too. He has served on the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce for decades, helping with the Duluth Fall Festival and other civic events.

“He’s been an inspiration,” state Rep. Brooks Coleman said on a day when he stopped by the bank for his own transaction. “He’s done a lot to help this community prosper and grow.”