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Citizens Alliance Bank has committed to building a new administrative building in Clara City that will be known as the East Annex building. The bank recently purchased the old NAPA and Main Street Fitness buildings on Center Avenue. Both buildings have been demolished and the lots are ready for the new construction.
Five years ago, current Citizens Alliance Bank President and Chief Operating Officer – John Gill joined the bank when former President/Chief Executive Officer – Jeff Berghuis announced his retirement. The bank was growing and has continued to see that growth ramp up quickly upon Gill’s arrival. Since that time, Citizens Alliance Bank has hired over 24 new employees, with over half of those positions residing in Clara City and the remainder spread throughout their eleven branch footprint. The growth has come to the point where the business is faced with space constraints in its existing Main Branch and North Annex locations in Clara City.
The Clara City branch and North Annex locations are not very old, they were built 15 and 4 years ago, respectively. When these buildings were built, Citizens Alliance Bank accounted for some anticipated personnel growth, but not at the levels that they have experienced over the last several years in particular. According to Gill, “The strong economic environment in both our local and regional markets have provided for new home construction and new small business job expansion in our communities which has been a major contributor to the organization’s growth. In each case, the Forstrom Brothers thought we would never fill these buildings.”
The new East Annex building will be two-stories, spanning approximately 14,000 square feet, with approximately 25 workspaces and offices combined. They also plan to construct an employee patio area between the new East Annex building and the existing storage shed. The building’s construction cost is estimated at approximately $3 million. The bank will also be adding 12 to 14 new parking spaces on the north side of the East Annex building. These new parking spaces will be utilized by bank employees during business hours and will be open to the public after business hours. Assuming construction begins mid/late summer, Gill anticipates completion and occupancy of the building come spring 2020.
When the East Annex building is finished, it will house most of the backroom operations employees of the bank that are not customer interfacing, such as item and data processing, deposit operations, branch admin support, electronic banking, cash management, and project management. This will free up critical space in the main branch for employees such as Personal Bankers and Loan Officers who are customer interfacing and will provide much needed space availability to support and service our customers.
Gill expects half of the new East Annex building to be utilized immediately, with the extra room accommodating future growth. According to Gill, Citizens Alliance Bank expects the current growth trend to continue over the next five to seven years. Through both organic and acquisition growth, they expect to add anywhere from 12 to 24 additional employees throughout the organization. Running out of space is a problem for Citizens Alliance Bank, but it is a good problem to have. “Growth is good. It creates opportunities for our employees through career development and advancement and wage growth, but also for our communities through new employment opportunities and development and revitalization of Main Street. Right now, we are just trying to stay in front of the growth,” Gill said.
The bank has been working closely with the Clara City Economic Development Association (EDA) and the Clara City Council. According to Gill, we are always looking for possible new ways to help boost economic development and vitality within Clara City and surrounding communities. When they were looking for buildings and lots to purchase and possibly construct a new building, they wanted to make sure the City and local community would benefit from the new construction. When they purchased the old NAPA building, there were no plans for the building’s future and it would have likely stayed vacant. The Main Street Fitness building owners had been looking for a new owner, but with no success decided to wind down the business and sell their building to the bank. After tearing down these two buildings, Citizens Alliance Bank will be breathing new life into these lots with a brand-new building and new employment opportunities within the local community.
The relationship between the City of Clara City and Citizens Alliance Bank has been mutually beneficial over the years. The City has worked with the bank to make this new building a reality and the City will gain a more active and vibrant Main Street and increased property tax base. “It is a positive thing whenever you can work with local City Officials to spur economic development and revitalize a portion of Main Street. The City and its staff have been very helpful throughout this process,” Gill said.
The new East Annex building will be a great resource for the Citizens Alliance Bank staff and also the bank customers by creating additional space and opening up the Main branch building for additional lenders and customer service team members. “We are very excited to get this project underway. This facility will provide additional work space for staff and allow us to better service our customers,” Gill said.
John Gill, President/COO of Citizens Alliance Bank announced that it has reached an agreement with Poe Investment Company to acquire, by merger, Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Sacred Heart, Sacred Heart, Minnesota. Farmers & Merchants State Bank has approximately $25 million in total assets. The transaction is anticipated to occur as of the close of business Thursday, August 16, 2019, subject to regulatory approval.
Mr. Gill stated that a merger application is being prepared and will be submitted within 30 days to the FDIC and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. These government agencies have the final say on the merger date, but Mr. Gill anticipates no problem in achieving approval for an August 16th merger.
Mr. Gill was quoted as saying, “The employees, office location and commitment to the Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Sacred Heart customers in Sacred Heart and surrounding area will not change. Customers will be dealing with the same individuals that they deal with today. The only difference for Sacred Heart customers will be a name change and product and technology upgrades. Customers will continue to experience the benefits of working with a local community bank, with local decision-making authority with leading-edge digital technologies. Citizens Alliance Bank, including its proposed newest office in Sacred Heart, is committed to the success and future of all its customers and employees, including the communities we serve”.
Beth Brackett, the Chairman of Farmers and Merchants State Bank, stated that although the decision to sell the Bank was a difficult one, that she was pleased to find, in Citizens Alliance Bank, an acquirer familiar with the local community and the needs of the customers in and around Sacred Heart.
Citizens Alliance Bank is proud to be a strong, independent, bank with total assets in excess of $800 million. Citizens Alliance Bank is headquartered in Clara City, Minnesota and currently has branch offices in eight rural communities in west-central Minnesota and three branch offices in western Montana. Citizens Alliance Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Forstrom Bancorporation Inc.
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