Vancouver lands Bay Bank

Cowlitz Bancorp subsidiary opens first full-service branch in Clark County

Vancouvercenter has lured a long-sought bank branch to the downtown Vancouver development. Bay Bank has agreed to occupy a 5,890-square-foot space on the first floor of the north tower at Vancouvercenter. Bay Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Longview-based Cowlitz Bancorp.

The Vancouvercenter branch, tentatively scheduled to open in late January 2006, will be the first full-service Clark County branch operated by Cowlitz Bancorp. Bay Bank operates a mortgage and commercial loan production office at 201 N.E. Park Plaza Dr. in Vancouver, which will be integrated into the new branch. Currently, Bay Bank services existing Clark County clients through a courier service out of its Portland branch.

“We have a good deal of business in Vancouver already,” said Cowlitz Bancorp President and CEO Richard Fitzpatrick. “Our customers are using our courier services, but it is not an ideal situation and it is not convenient for them.”

Fitzpatrick said Bay Bank’s Clark County loan customers want a centrally located branch to do their banking. The move is in line with the company’s plans to expand its presence in Clark County and capture a larger share of the growing market.

“There is a lot going on down there,” he said. “It is a good spot for us.”

The Vancouvercenter was chosen for its central location and easy access on and off I-5, said Fitzpatrick.
Vancouvercenter has pursued a bank tenant since Bank of America backed out of initial talks following completion of the building in early 2004.

“The bank is important because it lends to the overall concept of a business center location where other businesses might be attracted,” said Roger Qualman, executive vice president at NAI Norris, Beggs & Simpson, which manages the office and retail leasing of the $100 million Vancouvercenter.

While the development has been slow to attract tenants, Qualman expects the building to be entirely leased by the end of the year, making way for construction of the development’s south office tower. The completed development includes 165,000 square feet of office and retail space. Other tenants include Otak Inc., Management Recruiters, Rocketshop and the bi-state Columbia River Crossing Project.

“It’s a great building,” said Fitzpatrick. “As we look at where we want to expand, we would still want to remain in Vancouvercenter.”

Fitzpatrick said future growth could include as many as three to four Bay Bank branches east and north of Vancouver to serve Clark County as demand allows. He said the company would begin looking at where and if it makes sense to expand within two years.

While Bay Bank offers a full spectrum of consumer banking products, Fitzpatrick said the philosophy of the company is extremely commercial– focused. And Bay Bank is entering Clark County at a time when commercial banking “competition is being dialed up a bit,” he said.

“We think Clark County is a great place to have a commercial banking presence,” said Fitzpatrick.
“It is growing and the economic climate and business environment is good.”

Cowlitz Bancorp also operates four Cowlitz Bank branches in Cowlitz County and Bay Bank branches in Bellevue, and Portland and Wilsonville, Oregon. Additionally, the company recently acquired AEA Bancshares Inc., parent of Asia-Europe-Americas Bank. Its single Seattle branch will operate under the Bay Bank name.