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Southern Bancorp

Southern Bancorp

Arkadelphia, Ark.
Founded: 1986
Employees: 380
2009 revenue: $43 million
Estimated 2010 revenue: $65 million

Southern Bancorp, which calls itself a "rural development bank," was formed in 1986, when a group of Arkansas business and government leaders—including Wal-Mart scion Rob Walton and then-Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton—sought solutions to reduce rural poverty in the state. Philanthropies such as the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation capitalized the bank and have agreed to forgo dividends or the ability to sell shares. "Their return on their investment from a financial perspective is zero, but what they're getting is a social return," says Chief Executive Officer Phil Baldwin, 51. The bank's mission: Halve the poverty and unemployment rates in the communities it serves and increase high school graduation rates by 50 percent. An affiliated nonprofit, which gets dividends from the bank, helps communities work toward those goals through loans, cash grants, and other assistance. Southern, which has 45 branches in Arkansas and Mississippi and $1.1 billion in assets, also preserves banking services in rural areas that other banks are deserting. Baldwin says Southern has purchased 20 to 30 branches, many of which would otherwise have closed, doubling its asset base within the last year. Southern's social mission doesn't hinder its competitiveness. "Our banks compete head-to-toe with the other banks in town," Baldwin says. "We offer all the same services as they do, and in general we make more money."