Staff Writer

The national economic picture is filled with disconnected headlines.

Ford Motors, despite suffering multibillion-dollar losses, still would not seek federal assistance and would fund their restructuring effort on their own.

The United States Post Office is considering a switch to a five-day workweek. Due to increasing operation costs and a decrease in revenue, the Postmaster General John E. Potter asked Congress to consider a two-cent postage increase and to amend the law requiring the post office to deliver mail six days a week. Potter said they would consider dropping Tuesday as a regular delivery day because that was the lightest mail day.

Hyundai launched a new finance program called Assurance that allows customers to return a new or leased Hyundai to the dealership in case of involuntary unemployment under certain stipulations.

Local headlines have included layoffs and the plight of local industries. But headlines have also included stories about businesses celebrating anniversaries and milestones.

The signals can be difficult to interpret and gauge exactly where a community stands. But for the local banks, it is their business to keep a finger on the pulse of the community.

Ron Mullins is the First Financial Bank, NA, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer for Glen Rose, Granbury, Acton and Stephenville. While FFB is a subsidiary of First Financial Bankshares, Inc., Mullins said he makes decisions based on the climate in the immediate community.

“We are a separately chartered bank with our own board of directors and president, so decisions are made right here,” Mullins said.

Jim Chambers is president/CEO of Town and Country Bank. TCB started in Stephenville in March 1978 and Chambers has led the bank through his share of tough economic times. The bank also has locations in Glen Rose, Tolar and Granbury.

“I’m happy to report it was a good year,” Chambers said. “Community banks are the backbone of Main Street USA and community banking in the U.S. is a sound banking system.”

Chambers also said while he keeps an eye on the state and national markets, TCB bases their decisions on local economics. Therefore, customers shouldn’t expect to notice many changes in the coming year due to a lagging market.

“We’re fairly conservative and we’re keeping the same underwriting principals as last year,” Chambers said. “We did not get into the sub-prime loan market that other banks did.”

Chambers said TCB has also not experienced foreclosures or a significant number of past due accounts.

“Right now we’re very active in the real estate business, both commercial and residential,” Chambers said.

Chambers said TCB, a privately owned bank, performed above average in growth numbers, recording a 13 to 14 percent growth in the last quarter.

First Financial Bankshares is publicly traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol FFIN.

“First Financial Bankshares reported earnings of $13.04 million for the fourth quarter of 2008,” Mullins said. “For the year, earnings increased 7.4 percent to $53.16 million.”

FFIN stock increased by 47 percent last year, making it the 22nd best performing stock on NASDAQ. The average NASDAQ stock fell 41 percent in value last year.