Baker Boyer to cut costs with Weston branch closure

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WESTON -- Baker Boyer Bank will close its branch here Oct. 29 in a move expected to cut costs, operators announced.

The branch will be consolidated with the Walla Walla-based company's Milton-Freewater office nine miles away. But the decision leaves the community of less than 1,000 residents without a bank.

Baker Boyer President and Chief Executive Officer Megan Clubb said rising operating costs amid the rough banking climate led to the decision to close after 24 years at 110 S. Water St.

"This is a unique situation because not only is the branch small in terms of the number of customers, but we are facing significant capital investment to upgrade the branch," she said. "When we looked at that additional capital investment we just couldn't find a way that it could work."

The branch has been operating in a singlewide trailer since it was purchased as part of Baker Boyer's acquisition of the Bank of Commerce in 1986. The cost of a new structure is not financially feasible, especially given increasing expenses, Clubb said.

Baker Boyer, named one of the Top 200 Community Banks by "US Banker Magazine," has avoided the loan losses suffered by other banks. Nevertheless, the company has not escaped impacts of that economic turmoil. Rising Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. costs related to failing banks mixed with new regulatory reforms and the increasing costs of employee health-care contributed to the decision to shut down the Weston branch, Clubb said.

Clubb said no other changes or closures are anticipated.

"We've made significant investments in all of our other facilities, and I just want to reassure the community that we have no plans to close any other branches," she said.

The branch's three employees will continue to be employed by Baker Boyer. Two will move to the Milton-Freewater branch, and the third will be re-located to Walla Walla.

Clubb said she's working with Weston Mayor Duane Thul to brainstorm ideas to help customers -- including manufacturers ConAgra and Smith Frozen Foods -- overcome the inconvenience of traveling to Milton-Freewater.

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