A hometown bank that started out doing business in Jackson in a trailer has crossed the line into Idaho looking for new customers.
Bank of Jackson Hole has created Bright Bank and has opened a location in downtown Boise. A second location is planned to open in November in Meridian, and a third is planned to debut in Eagle in late 2021 or early 2022.
“We did some research and had some consultants, we looked at Colorado and Montana” for opportunities, said Bank of Jackson Hole CEO and Chairman Peter Lawton. “We came to the conclusion that Boise would be a strong market in the long term.”
Lawton said the expansion just made sense for a business that, despite deep roots in Teton County, was looking to expand.
Bank of Jackson Hole already has branches outside Teton County in Dubois, Alpine and Pinedale.
The bank’s research found that the Boise area is strong and growing but “that there’s very few community banks there,” Lawton said. “What they have is a lot of large banks.”
Bank of Jackson Hole has assets of about $1.16 billion, “mostly in Teton County,” Lawton said. Its business here is broad but leans toward real estate, mortgage banking, development and businesses. It hopes to work in the same market in the Boise area but to get into banking for industry and expand its wealth management efforts.
Bank of Jackson Hole’s search for new business concluded that there were no ready opportunities elsewhere in Wyoming and that two likely places in Idaho — Victor and Driggs — were already what people in the business call “overbanked.”
Lawton said Bright Bank might consider other places in Idaho, including Idaho Falls or the Sun Valley area. There are also prospects in Montana, especially around the Bozeman area.
Bank of Jackson Hole had two consultants, one in Boise and one in Oklahoma, consider names for the new bank, and “they both came up with the same name,” Lawton said.
Bank of Jackson Hole was founded in 1982, with one of the prime movers being Bob Biolchini, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, attorney who had a home in Jackson. Other people involved included John F. Turner, a longtime resident who served as the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and artist Conrad Schwiering.
Until 1988 the bank ran out of a trailer where it does business today on West Broadway in the Powderhorn Plaza. A remodeling and addition at that location is still underway to add about 8,000 square feet of space for offices and also some employee housing.
With the growing richness of Jackson Hole, the area has seen a flood of banks in recent years. There are now more than 20 doing business here. Lawton said Bank of Jackson Hole competes by keeping to its original roots.
“It’s still a community bank,” he said.
“We’re still small enough” to focus on locals, he said, “but we still have the size to compete ... we are large enough now that our lending limits enable us to handle large projects around here.
“But our decisions are localized. We made the decisions here, which is our big competitive advantage.”
Lawton was born and raised in Jackson. His grandfather was a doctor who had his office above Jackson Drug, and he’s a great-nephew of Genevieve Van Vleck. His father was the high school principal.
After graduating from college, Lawton came home in 1990 and worked for Jackson State Bank and then its buyer, Wells Fargo. He joined Bank of Jackson Hole in 2011.