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South Valley gains visibility

Bank's building near Medford airport is part of its expansion

South Valley Bank & Trust once nurtured a low profile, its owners waiting patiently to carry out their long-term strategy as a community bank in Southern and Central Oregon.

In recent months, however, South Valley has become a much more visible player in local banking.

There are lots of things going on in the banking community and it's made for very exciting times, says Bill Castle, South Valley president and chief executive officer.

South Valley's expanding role is reflected, in part, by its new 14,500-square-foot regional office at Navigator's Landing on O'Hare Parkway across Biddle Road from the airport.

Just as significant for the 27-year-old bank was its new role as Klamath Falls' sole hometown bank. Even as South Valley was occupying its new building at the end of December, Sterling Financial Corp. of Spokane completed its acquisition Klamath First Federal.

— We're pleased to be perceived as being under people's radars and we certainly don't want to be out there leading with our chin, Castle says. Timing is everything and we are certainly benefiting from all the market dynamics and we're very much on the upside of the curve.

South Valley has &

36;330 million in assets on its books and another &

36;220 million off-book assets managed by its trust division. The bank's in-house brokerage, Elliott-Ledgerwood & Co., manages nearly &

36;1 billion in market-value assets.

You look at our bank in that light and we're much larger than what people see us as, or don't see us as, Castle says. We're among Oregon's top-10 state chartered banks.

Last year was the bank's most profitable ever. The privately held bank, whose backers include Jeld-Wen Inc. owner Dick Wendt, doesn't divulge its quarterly performance as do banks whose shares are publicly traded. But Castle says Klamath First's passing into out-of-state hands has created opportunity for South Valley ' traditionally a commercial lender ' to score gains in the mortgage lending arena.

Western Bank alumni are strategically placed throughout South Valley's senior management. Dave McLaughlin, senior vice president and branch administrator; Gary Bedell, senior vice president and credit administrator; Larry Bosworth, senior vice president of trust and financial services; Brad Webster, vice president overseeing the commercial manager for the Rogue region; and Chuck Rieb, who is overseeing South Valley's push into Bend, were all with Western Bank before it was bought by Washington Mutual.

You get the right people first and then fill in the blanks with what you are going to do, Castle says.

South Valley first entered the Rogue Valley when it acquired Western Bank's Southern Oregon trust group in 1999. It then opened its first Medford bank branch in 2000 and announced plans to expand to the new site in December of 2001.

McLaughlin says South Valley has made rapid inroads in the Medford market, growing to &

36;60 million in outstanding commercial loans and more than &

36;80 million worth of commitments through lines of credit. In the past 2&

189; years, its deposits have climbed to &

36;40 million from &

36;3 million. The company has about 40 employees here.

We grew quickly and were packed into tight quarters, McLaughlin says. It was a welcome sight to see the thing finally finished and give us an opportunity to set up in offices that accommodate our size.

South Valley is acquiring property in White City to serve the mobile Upper Rogue market with multiple drive-up lanes. The bank plans to eventually have four or five branches in the area with its trust headquarters remaining at 310 Crater Lake Ave.

Castle says South Valley targets a clientele similar to PremierWest Bank, People's Bank of Commerce ' both of Medford ' and Bend-based Bank of the Cascades.

Our bread and butter is commercial financing, making loans on everything from equipment to working capital for plant expansion and property acquisition, McLaughlin says.

Banks tend to outgrow their original intent, usually just trying to survive. But Castle is comfortable with a geographical triangle marked by Bend to the north, Medford to the west and Klamath Falls to the south

We can very easily service that area and maintain our community bank profile, he says.

As you grow too much bigger, he asks, How do you keep convincing the consuming public that you are a community bank?

South Valley Bank & Trust has a large new building at Navigators Landing off Biddle Road near the Medford airport. The Klamath Falls-based bank has grown quietly and now is a major player in the state. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven