News Column

Room to grow: Small banks a bigger presence in B-N

July 16, 2014

By Pat Shaver, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

July 16--BLOOMINGTON -- Small banks in Central Illinois have seen more green recently, allowing several to expand and grow.

Local banks have experienced growth in their lending businesses, allowing for new buildings, more branch offices and larger facilities.

"I think what allowed us to grow is our loan demand. We're a community bank and we've been very successful at attracting commercial borrowers and our residential lending has also been very successful," said Marine Bank Executive Vice President David Bramlet.

Marine Bank opened a retail bank branch at 1508 Fort Jesse Road, Normal, in April. The bank operated a small commercial lending office in Bloomington since 2007 before expanding.

The new 3,500-square-foot branch will offer banking for individuals, families and businesses, including mortgage loans. It's located in space previously occupied by Busey Bank, and was renovated this spring.

Marine Bank is headquartered in Springfield and serves Central Illinois communities stretching from Macomb to Champaign. Bloomington is the bank's 12th branch.

"I think if you go back over the past 20 years, you'll find that the major regional money center banks ... have probably lost local market share in communities like Bloomington," Bramlet said, adding that being able to make local decisions helps smaller banks.

Bramlet said Marine Bank leaders plan to continue to grow the company in the Twin Cities.

"We definitely intend to be a player in the Bloomington market and one branch doesn't necessarily make you a player," he said. "We don't want to take it leaps and bounds, but one step at a time."

Much of the lending growth at Marine Bank is from residential subdivision projects, offices, student housing and commercial shopping centers, he said.

Lending also allowed Prairie State Bank & Trust to grow in the Twin Cities.

The bank is constructing a new building at 1101 Trinity Lane, Bloomington, that city plans estimate will cost $925,000. The bank is now located in a 2,300-square-foot leased office at 139 N. Williamsburg Drive, Bloomington.

The new building, which will double the bank's space, is expected to be finished by the end of the year, said Ed Ferguson, regional president of the bank. The building will be located east of the Advocate BroMenn Outpatient Center and will be owned by the bank.

"Bloomington is a very good market to be in. It has such a balance in demographics and economic factors. It has higher education, State Farm, the medical community and obviously a strong agriculture influence. All of that balances out really well and leads to loan opportunities," Ferguson said.

Timothy Bill, project manager for the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, said his agency hasn't seen a noticeable spike in local banks.

"But we don't see a lack of banks in Bloomington," Bill added. "It isn't like one bank runs the whole town, though."

Ferguson said there's been continued stability in local banking, after a few tough years during the recession.

"I think we've got some good momentum right now," he said. "We're excited for what is on the horizon in the next couple years."


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Source: Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)

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