NORTH LIBERTY– What started as a temporary space for one local bank has turned in to a permanent– and larger– home.
The MidWestOne Bank branch at 465 Hwy. 965 NE in North Liberty celebrated an expansion and remodel of its existing space on Tuesday, July 10.
The branch first opened in North Liberty in 2001, and its location in the strip mall behind Fareway was supposed to be short-term solution until the company could find a different place, perhaps its own free-standing building. However, the location turned out to be more ideal than expected, said MidWestOne’s Retail Managing Officer and Real Estate Banking Officer Melisa Henley.
“While it was always a small space, we felt like it was important to stay in North Liberty,” said Henley. “Here, we have a unique space because not in banker’s row. We like our space because it’s something that nobody else has, and it is next to other high traffic businesses.”
MidWestOne resident and CEO Charlie Funk said the location offers other conveniences to customers other banks might not have.
“We have excellent parking and our ATM is very visible from the highway and very accessible to drivers,” said Funk.
More importantly, Funk said, being in the growing community of North Liberty helped the bank flourish, as well.
“We did the math,” Funk said. “We are a $400 million bank. North Liberty has been great to work with. That’s the best way to start.”
But the bank’s prime location did not make up for the lack of indoor space.
“The only negative was, we were out of space,” Funk said.
“Ten years is a long time, and we needed an upgrade,” said Henley. “Rather than just replacing the carpet, we had the opportunity to gain space.”
When a neighboring business relocated, building owner Southgate Development allowed Cost Cutters to shift southward one space and MidWestOne was able to acquire another storefront. It nearly doubled the bank’s square footage. Rohrbach Associates architects designed the newly-expanded space, and Macomas-Lacina was the construction firm that made it come to life.
All the while, the branch remained open by setting up temporary work stations and continuing to serve customers, despite months of draped plastic, drywall dust and construction noise.
“Kevin had to wear a hard hat while opening accounts,” joked Iowa City Area Chamber ambassador Brent Hawkins during the July 10 ribbon cutting.
In the end, it now has the look and feel of a permanent, full-service bank.
“That’s the most frequent comment we get,” said Henley.
The remodel also allowed the bank to expand its in-house services, rather than having to send customers to the bank’s main location in Iowa City for certain things, said Assistant Branch Manager Kevin Crall.
“The expansion has given us a convenience factor of taking care of our customers, …and those who should be. They now have a local connection and easy accessibility to commercial banking services, mortgage lending and investment services, in addition to the retail banking services that were already in place,” said Crall.
Now, the North Liberty branch of MidWestOne Bank is a “one-stop shop,” Henley said, with staff ready to serve. Henley was promoted into the position of real estate banking officer, and former branch manager Adam McLaughlin, who moved to the Iowa City location in the position as Business Services Manager, will now spend part of his time in North Liberty to assist with commercial banking needs. “Bringing Adam back aboard was important because he has a lot of connections; a lot of our customers know him,” said Henley. “Adam provides commercial services for new business, and that’s significant because we are constantly growing and adding new businesses to town. Adam has built a presence, from his management experience and his community involvement.”
And being involved in a variety of community groups, organizations and efforts is an important part of MidWestOne’s overall philosophy, said Henley.
“MidWestOne is committed to our community, no matter where the branch location is,” she said. The company currently has 25 locations throughout Iowa. “We all take pride in our own towns.”
Henley has been a North Liberty resident for 10 years, and she has been part of the Iowa City Area Chamber’s North Liberty Steering Committee, a Friends of the North Liberty Community Library board member, a North Liberty Centennial Celebration committee member and was on the North Liberty RAGBRAI committee in 2008, among other activities.
“I think it is important to be aware of what is going on in the community, to be involved,” Henley said. “I like to contribute and give back. It’s nice to know I am making a small contribution to our community, whether personally or professionally. “
As other examples, McLaughlin has been also active in the chamber and various North Liberty economic development activities, and Crall has served on the North Liberty Blues & BBQ committee, as well. MidWestOne’s corporation recently donated $50,000 to the Iowa City Community School district for its Healthy Kids Initiative, to provide various health services to children in need, as well as fund school garden projects, agricultural presentations and fruit deliveries to schools.
“MidWestOne is really dedicated. If the employees are passionate about something, they encourage us to go out and do it. It touches things that are going on in our towns, we look at what MidWestOne can bring financially or volunteer-wise, and we roll up our sleeves and help our community and our customers.”
With additional space to do it, the bank is ready to serve even further.
“We hold our customer service at a very high level and now, being a full service, one-stop shop we can do even more, no matter what your banking needs are, right here in North Liberty,” Henley said.