Stockman Bank breaks ground on Grand Avenue

2012-04-24T12:38:00Z 2012-04-25T10:20:09Z Stockman Bank breaks ground on Grand AvenueBy JAN FALSTAD The Billings Gazette

Four months after opening a showcase bank in downtown Billings, Stockman Bank officials on Tuesday kicked off another bank at Grand Avenue and 14th Street West.

When it opens a year from now, the three-story, 18,000-square-foot bank will be one of the two tallest buildings on Grand Avenue and a testament to one family-owned Montana business bucking the Great Recession.

"We grew very sizably in the last four years because we didn't turn off the faucet. We never quit," said Billings bank president Wayne Nelson.

Stockman Bank started in 1953 in Miles City and now operates 24 Montana banks. The first Billings bank opened in 1995 on King Avenue West. When the Grand Avenue bank is completed, it will be Stockman's fifth Billings location, plus one in Worden.

The bank has escaped the recent global economic slowdown and the prolonged U.S. financial meltdown, said chairman and chief executive Bill Coffee.

"We don't own any European bonds. We just stuck to our business principles and it's kept us out of trouble," he said.

However, since January, competing banks that have been sitting on the bench are re-entering Montana's lending game, he said.

"It was a lot more fun the last five years being the only show in town," Coffee said.

Mike Tuss of CTA Architects Engineers designed the Grand Avenue bank to be a close relative of the others.

"We don't want them to be twins, but we want you to look at a Stockman Bank and know they are part of the same family," Tuss said.

Stockman Bank took advantage of other banks' conservatism and mistakes during the recession and the Grand Avenue expansion is proof the strategy works, Nelson said.

"We're building this out of organic growth with no debt and the only way you can do that is to add new customers," Nelson said.

Last fall, the bank paid $1 million for two lots offering 300 feet of access and a streetlight along Grand Avenue on a former Movie Gallery site.

The general contractor, Hardy Construction of Billings, has hired all local subcontractors.

Meanwhile, Stockman Bank has opened a branch in Dillon and is building its first bank in Helena.

"Loans are up. Deposits are up. Overall assets are up. Capital continues to grow, so apparently the banks are working well," said senior banking executive Butch Bratsky.

After envying other regions of the country that were prospering before the crash, Nelson said the economic times now favor this area.

"I am hearing we are Disneyland compared to the rest of the United States," he said. "We're spoiled."


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