For the second time in as many years, Stockman Bank cut the ribbon on its newest Missoula facility Wednesday night, punctuating the city's growth and its own success in the region.

Bob Burns, the bank's Missoula market president, signed on with Stockman five years ago when the company's brand had little presence outside the state's eastern reaches. It's now one of the fastest growing financial institutions in Missoula.

“I actually started five years ago next week from my kitchen table, literally,” Burns said. “We now have 65 employees across Missoula. Anything worth this level of excitement takes a lot of hard work. We certainly wouldn't have grown at this pace without some success, and Missoula has really been with us as a family-owned bank coming onto the market.”

Looking to grow its presence in Missoula, the bank broke ground in 2015 on a six-story office in downtown Missoula. The facility represented an estimated $35 million investment, and once it opened in 2017, the bank ramped up its local workforce from a handful of employees to more than 50.

Shortly after opening its downtown branch, Stockman began work on its new south side location. The three story building at Brooks and Dore Lane is valued at roughly $18 million. An additional 15 employees now work from the new facility.

“It was very obvious we had a lot of customers out in this part of Missoula,” said Burns. “It was important for our customers from a convenience standpoint to make sure we're in close proximity to the businesses and households we serve.”

With more than 100 guests in attendance, Burns and new branch manager Kevin Cotner spoke to the bank's family roots and the growth taking place across the south side of Missoula.

The bank recently sold an adjacent lot to Envision Commercial Construction, which also plans to break ground this month on a new three-story executive office building. Coupled with other investment within the district, the bank sees progress on Missoula's south side.

“We couldn't be more proud to be part of this neighborhood,” said Cotner. “It's a vibrant, growing part of Missoula. It's just the next step in Stockman's growth model. We're the largest privately held bank in the state. The profits from this bank stay in this state.”

The property now occupied by the bank formerly housed a vacant movie theater, which was razed in 2017 at the urgent request of the Missoula Police Department. The property generated less than $56,000 in annual property taxes, though that's expected to increase to $227,000 once the new bank goes on the tax rolls.

Burns said it was important for the bank to have a brick and mortar presence on Missoula's growing south side.

“We're very traditional in the sense that we want our customers to come into the bank and do business with us face to face,” Burns said. “That represents our brick and mortar. That's important for us, being a family owned bank.”

Bob Burns, Stockman Bank's Missoula market president, addresses the audience during Wednesday night's opening. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
Bob Burns, Stockman Bank's Missoula market president, addresses the audience during Wednesday night's opening. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

With the Brooks Street branch now open, Stockman has set its sights on the Reserve Street corridor. It recently purchased the old Mountain West Bank near Costco and plans to refurbish the property.

“We will actually start our remodel project with anticipated completion in June 2020, our fourth Missoula location,” said Burns. “We've already bought it and have ownership now. It's just a remodel project, so it's much less intense.”

Over the past few years, Burns has been consistent in highlighting Missoula's financial growth, along with that across western Montana. The city's economic upswing has enabled the bank to grow both its presence and its customer base.

The new location also helps it reach the Bitterroot Valley, catching the eye of commuters heading home to outlying communities.

“We've been fortunate to grow both our commercial and consumer plan base, as well as our wealth management,” said Burns. “It's been a really good trajectory for Stockman in Missoula. The market has been good, so we're fortunate from a timing perspective.”