Grand Bank Reaches Out Into GR

June 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP — Grand Bank is ready to begin branching further out into the market.

Less than three months after its acquisition by Holland-based Macatawa Bank Corp., Grand Bank is preparing to open a new branch office in Grand Rapids Township.

Grand Bank recently bought a former United Bank office at Cascade Road and Forest Hills Avenue and hopes to open the new location by late summer.

The new, full-service office would begin to fulfill the promise of the Macatawa Bank Corp. merger that provided a larger partner with the capital that Grand Bank needed to expand its presence in the Kent County banking market.

"We told the community we wanted to get more branches and that will be a good start for us. We're going to come to them," Chief Executive Officer Tom Wesholski said. "The next job is finding other locations."

Grand Bank, formed in 1987 and operating out of its sole office in downtown Grand Rapids, is looking for a location for a third office it hopes to have open by the end of the year, Wesholski said.

The bank has an optimistic goal of opening two more offices in 2003, for a total of four, and wants to eventually have six to eight locations throughout eastern Kent County in the years ahead, he said.

"I hope to be able to buy some property very, very soon," Wesholski said.

Grand Bank will look to either build new offices or — as in the case of the Grand Rapids Township location — buy and remodel existing facilities, Wesholski said. The key, as always, is finding the right locations strategically where Grand Bank can garner its share of the market and balancing the cost of developing new offices, he said.

"Any business has to look at it that way — how much do you pay for brick and mortar — and those costs aren't going to get any lower," Wesholski said.

New office locations, he said, "depend on what the market is going to do. We're not going to have one on every corner. It has to make sense," he said.

Under the merger, completed April 1 and valued at $41 million, Grand Bank operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Macatawa Bank Corp., the holding company for Macatawa Bank.

The corporation, founded in 1998, has 15 Macatawa Bank locations in Ottawa County, where it held a market share of nearly 16 percent as of June 30 a year ago, southwestern Kent County and northwestern Allegan County.

The acquisition of Grand Bank stems from Macatawa's desire to find new territory to venture into in order to continue the strong growth rate it has enjoyed over the past four years. That meant making a stronger push into the Grand Rapids area.

In pursuing options to meet that goal, Macatawa directors sought out a deal with Grand Bank because it's well established in Grand Rapids, has a strong reputation and has a similar corporate culture. The merger gave the corporation assets of more than $1 billion.

The merger solidifies Macatawa Bank's position in the West Michigan market and accelerates its growth into the Grand Rapids area, the second largest banking market in Michigan, Chairman and CEO Benjamin Smith III said.

"We are excited about the opportunity Grand Bank gives us," Smith wrote in the corporation's first quarter report to shareholders.

The plan is for Grand Bank — which has a local market share of about 2.5 percent and assets of about $320 million as of April — to focus on expanding its footprint in eastern Kent County. Meanwhile, Macatawa Bank is to work on the western half of the county, where it opened its newest branch in early April at Byron Center Road and 84th Avenue.

Wesholski believes Grand Bank has plenty of opportunity to pick up new business and market share with its "highly personalized and hands-on" style of banking.

The integration of Grand Bank into Macatawa Bank Corp. went well, Wesholski said. The two are also combining some products, including Internet banking, he said.

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