PremierWest Bank is no more.

PremierWest Bank is no more.

The private equity owner of Spokane, Wash.-based AmericanWest Bank closed the transaction Tuesday, assuming control of PremierWest's 32 branches and more than 300 employees.

Mike Koch, executive vice president for credit support services at AmericanWest Bank, was named president of the bank's Oregon and Northern California Region — the erstwhile PremierWest footprint.

"Mike is one of our very best — a highly skilled banker with a history of actively engaging employees and the community," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott Kisting, in a statement. "Mike and his family are settling in Medford and his first priority is getting to know the employees and customers throughout the region, and I am confident they will appreciate his energetic leadership style and unwavering commitment to community banking."

Koch has been in the financial industry for 23 years, including more than eight with AmericanWest. He has been involved in commercial and personal lending as well as special assets. He is a product of Pacific Coast Banking School and previously worked at HomeBanc Mortgage.

Kisting said PremierWest customers will have immediate access to lending capabilities that had been slowed by regulatory restrictions on PremierWest.

The acquisition boosts AmericanWest Bank's assets to $3.8 billion and 112 branches in five states.

PremierWest Bancorp shareholders approved a $20 million-plus agreement with Starbuck Bancshares, the private equity parent company of AmericanWest Bank on March 28. Starbuck paid $2 apiece for a little more than 10 million shares and paid off PremierWest's $41.4 million TARP Capital Purchase Program debt to the U.S. Treasury.

AmericanWest spokeswoman Kelly McPhee said staffing issues were being discussed with employees

"Those conversations are still going on," she said Tuesday afternoon. "Inevitably there is some duplication and that will happen with any merger. With some we will make an offer and they will decide whether to accept or not. But we're not at that point, yet."

McPhee was unsure if there were any branches designated for closure.

PremierWest's demise leaves one locally based bank in Jackson County.

"It's a bittersweet time," said Brad Hicks, chief executive officer of the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. "I never want to see a homegrown company disappear, but more than that, Oregon is becoming everybody's branch office. Oregon is the boutique state with the branch office rather than the headquarters."

Companies tend to pay special attention to their hometowns, Hicks said.

"So companies tend to show the greatest level of concerns for the communities where they are headquartered in. It seems to be a trend in the state of Oregon for companies to be bought and just retaining offices here.

"Conversely," Hicks said, "I'm excited about what I've heard about this new company. Access to credit still tends to be one of the biggest challenges for business people in this economic environment. To have a new player in town with the capacity to lend is exciting."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or