Wednesday, January 3, 2007

First Northern departs Suisun City; one bank remains

Excerpted from Daily Republic (Subscription required)
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By Ines Bebea
SUISUN CITY - Customers of the First Northern Bank branch in Suisun City will have to take care of their banking needs at the Fairfield branch starting April 1.

In a letter mailed to Suisun City residents last month, First Northern said that it will consolidate its services with the Fairfield branch on Oliver Road. Its last business day will be March 31.

The Dixon-based bank was started in 1910 and has branches in Solano, Yolo, Sacramento and Placer counties. The Suisun City branch, which operates out of One Harbor Center, has been in business for the last five years.

Its closing makes Westamerica Bank on Sunset Avenue the only banking institution in Suisun City.

"We talked to the bank and tried to see what we could do for them to stay," said Al Da Silva, interim economic development director the city. "But they said they were not generating enough business deposits to stay."

Da Silva added that Suisun City regretted losing the business, but that such a large real estate space at a prime location should attract another tenant, preferably a business institution.

He wondered if the bank's decision was affected by many customers choosing to do their business online and the multitude of ATM locations used to withdraw money.

"Banking is changing a lot," he said. "But the convenience of a branch is important."

Da Silva doesn't foresee the closing as a major problem for business owners, and is confident that the geographical move of their bank will not have a major impact on business.

Doyle Wiseman, president of The Wiseman Company LLC, which owns One Harbor Center, considers the 2,500 square feet of high-visibility area a prime location for another banking institution or retail space.

"That location will work well for another institution that offers different financial needs for its clientele," he said. "First Northern is a good community bank and we had no problems with them as tenants."

While more of the 32,000 residents of Suisun City will now be forced to go out of town for their banking needs, City Councilman Mike Hudson sees as a great opportunity to bring in a credit union or bank as new businesses continue to grow.

"While their leaving is sad for our residents and business community, it also means that now we have office space ready and available for another bank to move right in," he said.

According to Hudson, other financial institutions have expressed interest in the location and with Suisun City having the highest median housing value in the county, there are a lot residents who need to save or place their money in a bank.

"People want a bank that is close to them," said Hudson. "And with all the development going on in Suisun City, it would be great for a bank to come in now while we are growing."

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