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Glacier Bank wins award, sees economic increases

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POLSON — Recently, Glacier Bank won the Montana U.S. Small Business Administration’s annual Top Performing Lender award after helping 70 small businesses throughout the state with loans totaling nearly $12.5 million in 2012. 

“What it really amounts to, if you do the math, is about $180,000 per loan average,” Glacier Bank President Bob Nystuen said. “Some are in the million dollar range and others are much smaller, but the SBA offers such a great variety of loans for the new businesses, startups, existing business and growing business ... there are just some great programs out there.”

Having taken advantage of these programs and opportunities for small business owners, Nystuen said the award was quite an honor.

“It’s awarded once a year, and every year we look at the lenders who were high performing,” said SBA economic development specialist Crystal Baker. “Only one or two lenders get this award, so it’s definitely a great accomplishment for them, and kudos to them for realizing small businesses need that capitol and using the SBA to get that capital to them.”

Baker said the Small Business Administration is a federal agency that guarantees small business loans. 

“Say I’m a small business and I’m looking for a loan,” she explained. “I would talk to the lender about the business plan and what I need financing for, and then (the lender) would talk to the SBA and use our guarantee to get to get the capital they need.”

The SBA usually gives out two awards regarding the top performing lender — one for the highest volume of loans given and another for the highest dollar amount. This year, Glacier Bank was the top performing lender in the state, both in terms of dollar amount and number of loans. 

“It seems like Glacier is usually at the top and they get one or the other, but I’m not sure if a lender has ever gotten both,” Baker said. 

Nystuen said attaining a high volume of small business loans was a stated goal for the institution. 

“It’s an area we need to focus on, especially in our communities that have experienced a downturn in the economy,” he said. “If you consider the high unemployment rates out here in Northwestern Montana, there’s a need for capital. The SBA programs can really help these businesses that have a great idea but are short on capital.”

Glacier Bank Polson’s branch manager Todd Bassett agreed with Nystuen, and both said that while winning the award was great, they’re already looking ahead.

“The goal has been to use the SBA programs as extensively as we can, and that comes from the holding company down, so all of our sister banks use that program every chance we get. It feels great ... but as has been said around here several times, that was for last year. It was a wonderful thing and we’ll accept our awards, but we’re already looking forward to next year,” he said.

Bassett added that Glacier Bank is already seeing an increase in business, especially loan business, and is on track to continue to grow and give even more loans in FY 2013. 

Compounding the good news, Nystuen said he’s seeing an economic turn for the better and hopes to see it continue. 

“Banks and financial institutions in Northwestern Montana have really seen a significant growth in their deposits. A lot of folks have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the economy to turn, and people are coming out now and looking to make those investments,” he said. “I would tell you that the trend lines are certainly in the right direction for a healthier economy here in Northwestern Montana, and I think SBA is certainly a cornerstone for making our local economy more prosperous.”

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