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Banks open new branches in suburbs


At least four banks have announced plans to open new branches in Des Moines’ suburbs in recent weeks and more are planning to locate there in the near future, promising to heat up competition in what is already one of the most competitive banking markets in Iowa.

Fort Dodge-based North Central Bancshares Inc., the parent company to First Federal Savings Bank of Iowa; Commercial Federal Bank and Great Western Bank, both based in Omaha, and Quad Cities-based Valley Bank have either opened branch offices or expect to do so in the near future.

The new branches come as businesses and homeowners continue to flock to Des Moines’ western suburbs, making the region the fastest growing in Iowa. Construction of the Jordan Creek Town Center and the Wells Fargo & Co. building are adding to bankers’ desires to have locations nearby, banking officials said.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone,” said Ben Hildebrandt, a spokesman for the Iowa Bankers Association. “That’s where the people are going. People and entities, from businesses to banks to whatever, are moving out there. Banks are going to follow where people are moving and where commerce is moving.”

First Federal Savings Bank of Iowa recently opened a temporary office in the Woodlands Shopping Center at 2204 Woodlands Parkway in Clive. The bank is building a permanent location across the street and hopes construction will be complete by March. The new office will be the bank’s 10th. It currently has branches in Fort Dodge, Nevada, Ames, Perry, Ankeny, Burlington and Mount Pleasant.

The bank specializes in mortgage loans and other aspects of consumer lending. First Federal had assets of $430.6 million as of June 30. It employs three people at its Clive branch and expects to hire as many as seven more.

“The demographics are so strong in that golden circle,” said David Bradley, chairman and chief executive.

Valley Bank, which plans to further expand its operations in Central Iowa, will open its third branch in Greater Des Moines in a little more than a year when it breaks ground on a new location this month in Clive.  Bank officials announced last week they plan to open the Clive branch at  the corner of 123rd Street and University Avenue on June 1, creating as many as 15 new jobs.

Valley Bank, owned by River Valley Bancorp Inc., has $340 million in total assets and 11 offices in Iowa and Illinois that employ 165 people. It opened a West Des Moines loan production office in April and another branch in Ankeny in June 2002.

Company officials say they chose the location to be closer to their growing  clientele.

“Without question, this market is where our customers are,” said Jeffery  Damman, market president. “The Des Moines area is a key market to achieve a lot of growth, and if you look at Clive, it’s great to be in an area where  there is a lot of traffic.”

Rick Bratrud, senior vice president, said Valley Bank wants to expand its  operations in the Des Moines area, but not for the sake of growth while  competing with larger banks. “Our emphasis is on quality, not quantity,” he said. “We plan to compete with speed and service.”

Officials say the Clive bank will occupy the first floor of the new brick  structure, which is estimated to be approximately 15,000 square feet in  size. The second-floor space, they added, will be leased to compatible  businesses. The cost of constructing the new bank was not available at press time.

Bratrud said the new branch will help expand Valley Bank’s mortgage lending presence in the western suburbs. The company, he said, is already the top mortgage lender in the Quad Cities.

“They do a very good job there,” Bratrud said. “We may not be the biggest  here, but we want to be the best.”

Earlier this month, Commercial Federal Bank said it will co-locate its  regional headquarters and one of its branches in West Des Moines. The West Des Moines City Council approved a plan for the bank construct a building at the northwest corner of Ashworth Road and 74th Street.

Commercial Federal will move from space it leases at 5500 Westown Parkway. The federal savings bank, which had $6.8 billion in deposits and an $8.8 million loan portfolio as of June 30, operates branches in seven states.

Not all of the banking expansion in Greater Des Moines is occurring in the western suburbs, however. Great Western Bank recently submitted an application to the Iowa Division of Banking to build a new branch in Altoona.

The Omaha-based bank, which has offices in Clive, Carlisle and Runnells, earlier this year changed the name of its Iowa banks from Citizens Bank to better align them under its corporate umbrella.

“We think that there are great opportunities and great growth on the east side of the Des Moines metro area,” said Allen Shafer, the bank’s Iowa president. “We think the future for that part of our community is very bright. We really want to be part of that and participate in the growth taking place there.”

The bank has clients in Runnells and Carlisle who might find the Altoona office more convenient, Shafer said.   Scott Henry, who lives in Altoona and is Great Western’s market president in Carlisle, will be responsible for the Altoona branch, Shafer said.   The bank will lease office space initially as it finalizes plans to construct its own building.

“There’s a niche for us to fill there,” Shafer said. “There are a lot of great things happening on the east side.”

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