ARCHIVED  January 1, 1997

Banks reap benefits of prosperous region

Bankers along the Northern Front Range have reason to be pleased.

Even with the housing industry dropping off slightly, business is booming, and banks are making a lot of low-risk loans.

“Banks are only as healthy as their customers are,´ said Tucker Hart Adams, chief economist for Colorado National Bank in Denver. “When I look at Northern Colorado, I see that the cattle industry has bottomed out and is coming back. Cattle prices are up, and that is a plus for bankers because cattle producers can pay back loans, so banks stay healthy.”

Adams said she did not see any big changes coming along next year.

“Employment (statewide) will be growing by about 3 percent,” she said. “It is not growing as fast as before (from 1992 to 1995), but we will continue to have modest growth in all of the industries. Cattle prices going back up is a good sign for banks.”

Construction growth is expected to slow in 1997 with a decline in building activity in 1998, but building activity is at its highest level in more than a decade, according to a forecast issued by the Colorado Legislative Council.

This slowdown in growth has been anticipated, said Nancy McCallin, chief economist for the Legislative Council. Growth in Colorado’s economy will be propelled by advanced technology, finance industries and construction, McCallin added.

“Housing has remained stable for us because more players have come into the market,´ said Patrick Brady, vice president of FirstBank of Northern Colorado in Fort Collins. “We feel that, overall, ’97 will be stable and steady, but demand won’t be as heavy as ’93-94 because of the lower interest rates (in those years). It hasn’t dried up but it isn’t growing as much. We anticipate a moderate growth in loans [of] about 10 percent in 1997 over ’96.”

Brady said banks are healthy and prosperous and says he sees that trend continuing “as far out in the reasonable future as we can see. We have a nice mix of manufacturing in the state,” he said. “We depended on the energy (oil and gas) industry in the 1980s, and that bottomed out. But now we have biotech industries, the universities, Hewlett-Packard, Anheuser-Busch, Kodak and others which are all doing well. So if one stumbles, the others are still healthy, and this is a popular place to set up shop.”

Other bankers are also optimistic about the financial industry in Northern Colorado.

“Banks all along the Front Range are doing real well,´ said Mark Driscoll, president of First National Bank in Fort Collins. “We have budgeted for growth in our loan portfolio. Our growth will slow down from the last few years, but we expect loans to be up. It is always a balancing act between managing risk and growth.”

Driscoll said he expected loans to be up by 7 percent to 8 percent in 1997 over 1996. The three big growth years for the bank were 1994-96.

“These last three years were good growth years,” he said. “In 1996, construction growth was strong, and ’96 was a banner year for technology, especially in high-tech areas. Business is in a growth mode for ’97. The employers in Northern Colorado are all doing very well.”

That growth has prompted the opening of new banks and expansion of existing banks into new markets. Weld County Bank recently received state approval for a charter in Evans, while Cache Bank recently opened in Greeley. Many other banks have opened branches or independently chartered banks throughout the Northern Front Range, with more expected in 1997.

Bankers along the Northern Front Range have reason to be pleased.

Even with the housing industry dropping off slightly, business is booming, and banks are making a lot of low-risk loans.

“Banks are only as healthy as their customers are,´ said Tucker Hart Adams, chief economist for Colorado National Bank in Denver. “When I look at Northern Colorado, I see that the cattle industry has bottomed out and is coming back. Cattle prices are up, and that is a plus for bankers because cattle producers can pay back loans, so banks stay healthy.”

Adams said she did not see any big changes coming…

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