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Klamath First builds in south Medford

Klamath First Federal will open a second Medford branch in early 2002.

The 2,700-square-foot office, being built at Stewart Avenue and Kings Highway in the southwest part of town, will be Klamath First's fifth branch in Jackson County.

"We're looking at population trends and where the growth is," senior vice president and chief operations officer Frank Hernandez said. "The Rogue Valley, in general, is one of the faster growing areas along the I-5 corridor. We've had numerous customers asking when we were going to build in that part of town; I can't say that's true in other locations."

A branch manager has yet to be selected.

The project has been in the works for more than a year as Klamath First consolidated lots formerly covered by single-family rental units. The seven-employee branch will have an investment officer, four teller windows, a drive-up window and a drive-up ATM.

The branch is one of three opening in the next four months, giving the bank more than 50 in Oregon and Washington. Klamath First opened in 1934 as a savings and loan and now has more than $1 billion in assets.

The company came to Jackson County 22 years ago, opening an Ashland branch. Klamath First entered the Medford market in 1989 with an office on McAndrews Road.

The bank plans to open its 52nd branch at Wal-Mart in Richland, Wash., today and another in the Springfield Wal-Mart in January before the free-standing office opens in Medford.

"The Wal-Mart offices go up in three weeks," said Hernandez. "If we could be in every single Wal-Mart we would. We've been able to get in where Wal-Mart is doing expansion."

Klamath First completed an acquisition of 13 branches from Washington Mutual, including 12 former Western Bank offices, on Sept. 11.

The company became publicly traded on the NASDAQ in 1995 and completed a buyback of 340,800 shares, or 5 percent of its shares, on Sept. 27. A 13 cent dividend was declared Oct. 1.

Shares were selling for $12.54 at the market's close on Tuesday.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

Klamath First builds in south Medford