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Whidbey Island bank buys Bayshore Center

]Two large building that stood empty on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor since the end of April will soon be filled again with the hum of commerce and the jingle-jangle of money.

Whidbey Island Bank recently purchased the “Bayshore Center buildings” from Wells Fargo. The purchase consists of the large building that used to house J.C. Penney and a smaller, connected building that once housed GTE. The bank will move its operation center to the 35,000-square-foot space this fall.

“We’re making a commitment to Oak Harbor and to Whidbey Island in maintaining our headquarters here,” said Jack Wagner, chief operations officer and executive vice president. “It’s important for people on the island to know that their hometown bank is still here on the island.”

Pacific Northwest Bancorp, formerly InterWest, used to own the Bayshore buildings. The buildings and two others on Pioneer Way were emptied after Wells Fargo acquired Pacific Northwest and moved banking operations to the nearby Wells Fargo building. About 90 local people lost their jobs in the acquisition.

Lara Underhill, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, said the two other buildings owned by the corporation haven’t been sold yet. One is a large two-story building, the old InterWest Bank, next to the Bayshore buildings. The other is across the street.

Whidbey Island Bank is the last locally-owned, independent bank left on the island.

The purchase by Whidbey Island Bank will end speculation about the fate of the buildings. The city of Oak Harbor and Sno-Isle Regional Library System have both shown interest in the buildings, though some officials wanted to keep them on the tax rolls.

Wagner said the move will definitely be good for downtown Oak Harbor and will likely mean new jobs someday. It will also create efficiencies in the bank by allowing them to have offices in one place.

“The larger space allows us to centralize our bank services and support staff, as well as accommodate future expansion,” bank President and CEO Michal Cann said. “As the bank continues to grow, the creation of new jobs will provide additional employment opportunities in our community.”

Cann said the bank already has a buyer for the current operation center, which is next to Island Pet Center on Barlow Street.

Whidbey Island Bank was established in Coupeville in 1961. It currently has more than 300 employees and 17 branches in Island, Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties, serving real estate, commercial and personal financial needs.

Cann said the move should help Whidbey Island Bank to continue its phenomenal growth.

“In the last 10 to 12 years, we’ve grown from 50 to 60 million in assets to over $600 million now,” Cann said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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