Community First Bank will mark 20 years in business this year by moving its headquarters to a new building.
The locally-owned bank, which opened in 1997, will be moving its administration team as well as its sister company, HFG Trust, to 8131 W. Grandridge Blvd. in Kennewick.
Community First Bank paid $2.8 million to buy the building, previously owned by a group of individual investors, and expects to make up to $500,000 in renovations, said Eric Pearson, the bank’s CEO and president.
“We looked long and hard and considered constructing and it came down to the size of investment we are willing to make on a building. … We wanted a statement location and liked the idea of building, but quickly realized it was not the best stewardship of our shareholders’ money,” Pearson said.
Being centrally located was a key factor, too, said Pearson, who’s served as CEO since 2009.
The Grandridge Boulevard location fit the bill and is the closest to what Pearson calls the Tri-Cities’ financial district.
“The bank has grown tremendously. The economic downturn was for good for us. We’re still in business,” Pearson said. But after the crisis, the banking world got more competitive, he said.
That got Community First Bank thinking about augmenting its services with revenue from non-interest sources, Pearson said.
“We felt we needed to provide a new service, and investment services was one thing we knew we’d always like to do,” he said.
The bank acquired HFG Trust from Ty Haberling in 2016. The move allows both businesses to better serve their customers, especially when it comes to trust services, Pearson said.
“We take care of clients with each other. We wanted it to be the right fit. We’re good at what we do and so are they. It’s been very successful … it’s a win for clients,” Pearson said.
HFG Trust has “been growing like crazy and have been since the merger and they’ve been running out of space,” Pearson said.
Community First Bank employs 69 people and operates four branches in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and Connell. HFG Trust has 19 employees.
Community First Bank’s administrative team moved out of its Clearwater Avenue branch and into a leased office in a nearby strip mall two years ago.
“We’d like to have the same building and share space,” Pearson said.
Pearson said the bank and HFG Trust are working to accommodate current tenants in their new building as they begin renovations.
The building currently has three tenants: Tri-City Title and Escrow, Wilbur-Ellis, NAI Tri Cities.
The HFG Trust team will move out of its Edison Street offices and into the new building once NAI Tri-Cities real estate moves out. The timeline isn’t firm but it could be by November or December, Pearson said.
Pearson said Tri-City Title and Escrow will be leaving the building next year, which will provide more space. The bank administrative team of nine would move in early 2018, after the escrow company leaves.
More space might be available for the deposit operations group, which handles electronic banking, and other departments or another tenant could move in later in the year, Pearson said.
Renovation work will include exterior cleanup, enlarging windows on the north side, stucco work, painting and bathroom improvements.
“The building will feel like an HFG location to clients,” Pearson said.
Community First Bank’s offices in the new building will be chartered as a branch, but it won’t be a full-service facility. Bank employees will be able to assist HFG clients in the building, Pearson said.
The bank and financial services’ company have grown in tandem with the Tri-Cities.
Community First Bank’s assets total $287 million.
Fifty years ago, the Tri-Cities was a very small place, but it’s grown rapidly and may exceed the population of Spokane in “our children’s lifetime,” Pearson said.
“I’m really bullish on the Tri-Cities. Obviously. We’re here. We’re less dependent on Hanford than we’ve ever been,” Pearson said. He also pointed to the area’s population approaching 300,000 and the area’s central location, ample land, cheap housing, power availability, good roads and decent weather as pluses.
There’s a subset of younger customers who never “step foot in the bank and we can take care of them but we’re not targeting them as a client,” Pearson said.
“We’re working for a client who wants a relationship, not just a bank, and who values the actual service and expertise that we’ve invested in,” Pearson said, adding that teaming up with HFG Trust helps educate customers about “how to manage finances for long haul” as a “successful long-term investor.”
“Our common theme is caring. Clients who want someone who is there and looking out for them,” Pearson said.
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