by: Cliff Newell, 
Smiles are just the beginning of the good treatment received by customers at the Lake Oswego branch of Pacific West Bank. From the left, president and CEO Douglas Leeding, operations supervisor Terisa Lundy and business development officer Scott Gaerisch.

In a staggering United States economy, many businesses are closing or laying off employees.

Not Pacific West Bank in Lake Oswego. It's opening and it's hiring.

'Everything you read in the financial news is negative,' said Douglas H. Leeding, bank president and CEO. 'There's talk of businesses laying off thousands of workers.

'We're not hiring thousands, but we are hiring.'

It's not that Leeding and business development officer Scott Gaerisch are ignoring national trends. It is just that they are confident enough in the model developed by Pacific West Bank over the past 3½ years in West Linn that they feel they can have the same success in Lake Oswego at their new location at 5200 Meadows Road.

The doors opened only last Monday and the 'brand new' smell of the building was very strong indeed. But Leeding and Gaerisch expect to settle in soon and take care of business with this basic plan in mind: Be good to local people and they will be good to you.

'Bigger banks are getting bigger and bigger and more impersonal,' Leeding said. 'The community bank formula has high-level involvement in the community and being involved in the community. It's a successful philosophy.'

It was Gaerisch's job over the past six months to 'build bridges' for Pacific West's new Lake Oswego location, and he has been extremely impressed with the community spirit here.

'There's the Rotary auction, the Lake Run, and the chamber of commerce has incredible commitment and involvement,' Gaerisch said. 'Lake Oswego is just the type of community we want to step into.

'While larger banks are pulling back, we see a chance to move in and replicate the successful model we have in West Linn.'

Leeding sees a chance to beat the trends by not being trendy.

'We're not trying to sell a product of the month,' he said. 'Our motto is 'banking on relationships.' We want to understand our customers' needs and where they want to go and not simply say, 'This week we promote CDs.' We've got to listen first.'

Pacific West's success in West Linn made it want to move into Lake Oswego as soon as possible.

'We wanted to expand in the South Metro area, and we'll continue to do that,' Leeding said. 'As long as we have the right location and especially as long as we have people that have our philosophy. Then we can be successful.'

The Lake Oswego location has some features that Leeding and Gaerisch are sure that customers will like. One is the community room, which will be offered to all kinds of community groups for meetings and lunches. Another is that instead of a 'teller's row' there will be desks where customers can sit down and take care of their business, without hardly ever having to wait.

That personal touch is what sold Gaerisch on Pacific West Bank even before he joined the company.

'When I was just a customer here I used to bring in small checks to cash just because of the relationships I had here,' Gaerisch said. 'We have ATMs and access to 9,000 machines (9,002, including the ones in West Linn and Lake Oswego). We can enable our customers to do business any way they want.

'We have high tech and high touch. We have tools and a level of service that is unmatched.'

'We're so localized that big banks simply can't do business that way,' Leeding said.

Lake Oswego is big on sustainability, and Gaerisch says that can apply to the banking business, too.

'The money banked here will stay in the community,' he said. 'It will be recycled. It's like sustainable banking.'

With hopes so high, some celebrating is in order. A ribbon cutting and reception will be held next Thursday, June 26, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. There will be refreshments, appetizers and live music.

'We'll have more of a grand opening in September,' Leeding said. 'That will be the broader public opening.'

For more information about Pacific Bank West in Lake Oswego, call 503-905-2250 or go to the Web site .

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