First Republic Bank

Jake Lamarine, center, regional managing director for First Republic Bank, with associates from left: Jim Gersack, Mary-Katherine King, Sarah Campos and Alex McDougall. The bank reports its first two years in Jackson have been strong.

First Republic expands local presence

Coming up on its second anniversary in Jackson, First Republic Bank is looking at solid growth in services, staff and community involvement here as well as an increased local presence of its founder and CEO.

In addition to its bread-and-butter business of home loans, the San Francisco-based bank has come on strong on the commercial side of Jackson Hole real estate. The top local executive said the Jackson branch has scored $70 million to $80 million in new loan originations in 2020, compared with very little here the year before.

Thanks to low mortgage rates and the fact that people want to live in Jackson Hole, activity in residential lending “has been nothing short of robust,” said Jake Lamarine, regional managing director for First Republic in Jackson since February 2019. “The new business opportunity we found in Jackson was not only in our core competency — single-family residential lending — but also in the commercial market.”

He didn’t want to name specific projects but said a few of them are workforce housing-related, “which we’re very proud of.”

First Republic has long had Jackson Hole customers and established a brick-and-mortar presence in December 2018. The Jackson branch occupies a remodeled building at 545 W. Broadway that used to be a Mexican restaurant. The interior is designed as a comfortable “living room” atmosphere, versus a typical bank office, and that was helpful in introducing First Republic to Jacksonites, Lamarine said.

“We try to have a very inviting space, and that’s worked well for us,” he said.

Deposits have grown, and so has the number of employees. First Republic’s Jackson operation started with just a few people, Lamarine said, but as of this past July had expanded to 18. That will probably double in the next few years, he said, and opening another office is “something actively in the planning process.”

“We see the timeline as six months or so,” he said.

The growth in staffing included the addition earlier this year of James Mazzarisi as managing director of the Construction Lending Group. The bank also established a trust practice in February.

Founder, chairman and CEO James Herbert II and his wife, Cecilia, recently built a home in Jackson Hole and are now spending more time here. The expectation is that they will move here permanently.

Lamarine said it’s “fun” to have them around but also “nice to be able to check in with them on a regular basis about being thoughtful in this community about what we do here.”

As for community involvement, First Republic was an Old Bill’s co-challenger even before the bank set up shop here, according to a spokesman.

This year the bank and its employees donated an additional $10,000 to the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole specifically for COVID-19 efforts. The bank is also donating 5,000 masks to the St. John’s Hospital Foundation.

First Republic has contributed to a variety of local organizations with donations and sponsorships of projects and events, like the upcoming Pitch Day, an annual entrepreneurs competition put on by Silicon Couloir.

Among the other beneficiaries are Jackson Hole Food and Wine, Hole Food Rescue, Habitat for Humanity, the Teton County Library Foundation, Coombs Outdoors, the Convergence Investors Summit, the Center for the Arts and St. John’s Health.

— Staff report

Naughty Fruit turns to crowdfunding

Naughty Fruit is looking to raise $18,000 by Sept. 24 via Kickstarter to get through the COVID-19 crisis and begin to grow again.

The maker of spiced, dehydrated fruit snacks — founded by Juan Morales, of Victor Idaho — is already more than halfway toward its goal.

“There has been an overwhelming demand for Naughty Fruit, and it’s a challenge to increase production without the needed capital for growth,” Naughty Fruit’s Kickstarter pages says. “Covid-19 affected our sales for several months but now we are back on store shelves and with higher demand for our various flavors.

“Distributing to local vendors and fulfilling the orders of our backers is the company’s first goal,” Naughty Fruit said on its Kickstarter page. “Once production is running smoothly, we will begin to work on an organic version of Naughty Fruit.”

You can find the Kickstarter campaign at TinyURL.com/yynjemej.

– Staff report

5.7% unemployment in July

Teton County saw a 5.7% unemployment rate in July.

That’s down from 9.4% in June but still significantly higher than the county’s 1.9% unemployment rate in July 2019.

In all Wyoming counties, in fact, July’s employment picture was an improvement over June, but unemployment rates in all 23 were still higher than a year earlier.

The 3.7%-point drop in Teton County from June to July was the biggest for any Wyoming county.

The lowest unemployment rate in the state in July was 3.9% in Albany County, while Natrona County’s 10.2% was the highest.

According to the Research and Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, which reported the stats, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 7.6% in June to 7.1% in July.

“Wyoming’s unemployment rate peaked at 9.6% in April and has steadily decreased since then as some businesses have reopened and individuals have returned to work,” the release said. “It appears that the state’s economy is gradually recovering from the large disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

During the pandemic shutdown, Teton County’s unemployment went from 2.9% in March to 18.3% in April and 15% in May, according to Research and Planning.

— Staff report

Businesses, nonprofit women noted

The names of Jackson Hole business and nonprofit leaders are sprinkled throughout the Wyoming Business Report’s list of nominees for its annual Women of Influence Awards.

The Jacksonites and the categories they were nominated in include these:

Arts: Natalia Macker, artistic director of Off Square Theatre Company; and author Nanci Turner Steveson, Jackson Hole Writers.

Best Mentor: Theresa Burnside, owner of CopyWorks.

Entrepreneur: Jen Simon, founder and CEO, Wyoming Women’s Action Network, and principal consultant, JMSimon Consulting.

Law: Sue Combs, partner in Holland & Hart.

Manufacturing, Science and Technology: Echo Miller, mechanical engineer at Square One Systems Design.

Nonprofit: Laurie Andrews, president of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole; Raizy Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of Wyoming; and Rosie Read, Teton area program director for Climb Wyoming.

— Staff report

EarthCheck certifies Teton County

Teton County is the first travel and tourism destination in North America to be certified as sustainable by EarthCheck.

EarthCheck is a business advisory group specializing in sustainability and destinations management for the travel and tourism industry.

Teton County was evaluated on 266 criteria in 12 areas, including energy efficiency and conservation, waste management, cultural and social management, and economic management.

That achievement was announced by the Riverwind Foundation, a Jackson Hole nonprofit coordinating to strengthen and unify the programs, policies and practices for environment stewardship, social responsibility and economic vitality in the county.

“Teton County’s vision of sustainability is to preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations,” Riverwind’s executive director, Tim O’Donoghue, said in a press release.

— Staff report

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor and Business section coordinator. She worked in Washington, D.C., and Chicago before moving to the Tetons.

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