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First Financial Bank boosts dividends by 12 percent

First Financial Bank on Broadway in Crown Point.

First Financial Bank, which has six Northwest Indiana branches in Highland, Hammond, Schererville and Crown Point, boosted its dividend by 12 percent because of the reduction in the corporate tax rate from 36 percent to 21 percent.

The Cincinnati-based bank's board of directors approved a dividend of 19 cents per share to anyone who owned stock as of March 1. The dividend will be paid out on March 15.

"As we mentioned during our fourth quarter earnings call, the passage of the Tax Reform Act in late December was a significant positive for First Financial and all of our stakeholders, and prompted evaluation of our dividend policy and capital allocation strategies," Chief Executive Officer Claude Davis said. "This increase in our dividend is consistent with our stated goal of consistently providing strong shareholder returns while supporting planned growth initiatives and maintaining target capital levels."

First Financial has paid a dividend every quarter since its inception in 1983.

“In addition to the dividend increase, we will accelerate the timing of our dividend payment in an effort to align dividend practices in anticipation of our pending merger with MainSource Financial Group," Davis said.

The bank also boosted starting pay to $15 because of the tax cuts, in keeping with raises given out by other regional banks with a footprint in Northwest Indiana, including First Merchants, PNC, First Midwest and Fifth Thirds.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.