Downtown celebrates a banking partner
By ALTA LeCOMPTE
Las Cruces Bulletin
Bank of West — stocked with all the latest technology to make banking easier and more secure — was the center of attention Downtown on Sept. 22.
Customers and community leaders gathered for the long-awaited Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of the newly remodeled branch. Mike Lowrimore, regional manager and senior vice president, thanked Bob Pofahl of the Downtown Las Cruces Community Partners (DLCCP), the group of developers that acquired and renovated the Bank of the West property.
As part of the agreement, the bank relocated its Main Street drivethrough window to make space for the plaza.
Lowrimore said Bank of the West was celebrating the Sept. 17 opening of Plaza de Las Cruces — “all Bob and his guys are doing, our customers and Las Cruces.”
“We’re also thanking our long-term customers that stuck with us,” said Brenda Allred branch manager and vice president.
Memories of St. Genevieve’s
Guests who toured the interior of the remodeled Bank of the West offices were reminded the bank’s story is about more than cool technology and physical space. It also is about history and community.
A painting of St. Genevieve Church hanging in a prominent location inside the bank tells that story. An adobe church was built on the site in 1859 and a basilica with towers replaced it 1886. The basilica was demolished in 1967.
Many Las Crucens carry powerful memories of basilica in the heart of their city. During planning for Downtown redevelopment they asked that a new symbol of community be built on the site where the historic church once stood.
Although Bank of the West could not bring back St. Genevieve’s, it could — and did —make the land its drive-through occupied available for the recently completed community plaza.
“I live here,” Allred said. “This affects me on a personal level. I am so proud to be a part of what is happening Downtown.”
“We look forward to growing with this project,” Lowrimore said. “We’re at ground level, participating together in growing with Downtown. Our bank made this investment because we want to be a part of the future of the community.”
Branch of the future
The nook where the painting is displayed marries past, present and future.
Beneath the painting is a sleek black countertop where customers can check their balances on iPads, get help with online banking questions or brew themselves a cup of coffee.
SEE BANK, PAGE 31
Bank of the West’s senior vice president — with Downtown branch staff Tyffani O’Kelley, Brenda Allred, Yanira Rivera, Sally Frias and Santiago Garcia — applauds the reading of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce proclamation by Acosta at a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 22.
BULLETIN PHOTO BY ALTA LeCOMPTE
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Another forward-looking feature of the renovated space is its open concept.
There are three offices facing North Main Street, separated from the inner lobby by glass rather than a solid wall. Employees and customers can look through the offices and out to Main Street. There are no barriers between the tellers, no high counter between them and their customers.
“It looks more like a desk than a traditional tellers’ line,” he said.
The space is configured so tellers can easily step around the end of their counter to work more closely with customers, Allred said.
Tellers have no cash in their drawers. Instead, she said, they take in deposits and disburse withdrawals through a cash recycler.
Lowrimore said the cash recyclers make tellers more mobile and efficient and transactions more secure.
“This branch is our model for the future,” Lowrimore said,” adding the office design is the first in New Mexico.
At Bank of the West Downtown branch, secure and efficient technology begins in the glass-enclosed outer lobby that that houses a modern automatic teller machine.
The outer lobby can be accessed with a bank card after hours. Customers can make transactions securely enclosed in the lobby, which locks behind them and then opens for them when they are ready to leave.
Neighborhood, Bank of the West focus on small business
Allred noted that attracting small businesses to Downtown is key to the success of the neighborhood.
She said the most satisfying aspect of her job is working with small businesses, “brainstorming what their needs are and helping them grow from small, small businesses into something much bigger.”
“Small business is our niche,” Lowrimore said. “We have unique products and services that help them maintain and grow their businesses — with the help of our bankers. We count on our managers to be knowledgeable and to create relationships in their communities.”
Lowrimore said among the small business products the banks offers are small business loans with “unique terms.”
“We’re the fastest growing small business bank in the country,” he said. “We have outgrown everyone in the country in the past two years.”
Bank has their back
Allred said Bank of the West encourages employees to participate in community organizations and projects.
“It’s huge as an employee to know you have that support, that if you have to be away from the office for a community commitment that’s OK.”
Among the organizations the Bank of the West’s three branches support are Jardin de los Niños, C.A.R.E., Las Cruces Home Builders Association, and Mesilla Valley Hospice. Their efforts include teaching financial literacy through Junior Achievement and other organizations.
In fact, Allred said, she missed the opening ceremony for the plaza because she was participating in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mud Volleyball Tournament.
“I love that organization,” Allred said. “You should have seen us covered with mud.” Alta LeCompte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-343-7478.