Bank plans Janesville branch

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Jim Leute
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

JANESVILLE—Richard Arneson gives an honest answer when asked how his board members responded to a proposal to open a branch bank in Janesville.

“Some of them were spooked,” said Arneson, president of Wisconsin River Bank in Sauk City. “The thinking was that Janesville was kind of a war zone.”

A board member pointed out that the bank, then known as Community Business Bank, hadn't had much success in Janesville, but Arneson countered that the bank had suffered in other communities as well.

“It wasn't just Janesville,” he said.

Community Business Bank had suffered from some bad loans but had received an injection from the founder of River Bank in the La Crosse area.

Arneson said the bank is again doing well, and it plans to open a branch in Janesville next spring.

If approved by regulators, the bank should open next spring at 1101 N. Parker Drive, a former branch of Parker Community Credit Union.

“Janesville had some challenges, probably more so than some other communities,” Arneson said. “We've been able to develop some business down there, and there are some folks in Sauk City who are investing in Janesville.

“So we know people in Janesville, clients we have a lot of respect for, and they've responded very favorably to us opening a branch there.”

When it opens, the branch will have five or six full-time employees who will be hired locally, Arneson said, adding that someone well known in the local banking community will manage the branch.

Local contractors will be hired to remodel the facility, which has been empty since late last year when the credit union consolidated its operation on Lexington Drive.

The branch will be a full-service lending and deposit bank, with drive-through service.

With deposits of nearly $61 million at the end of June, Wisconsin River Bank now has operations in Sauk City and Lodi.

“What we are trying to do is respond as quickly as possible and be flexible where we can,” Arneson said. “We want to treat everyone fairly and quickly, whether they're smaller customers or larger.”

Arneson said responsiveness and flexibility would be assets for a smaller bank that enters a market with three large banks that have significant market share. He said the bank's relationship with River Bank also would elevate its loan capacity over some of the smaller banks in the Janesville area.

“What we really like about this is that Sauk City is a pretty small universe, and with 150,000 people a in 15- or 20-mile radius, Janesville is a much bigger universe,” Arneson said.

Arneson said he and his board have heard how Janesville is rebounding from the collapse of its auto sector in 2008 and the fallout from the Great Recession.

They've learned about the efforts of Rock County 5.0, the communities growing economic diversity and its surging health care industry, he said.

“Janesville is a great opportunity for us, one we're thrilled about,” he said. “Everyone there has treated us very well and has made us feel very welcome.”

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