Citizens State Bank-Midwest loan officers see a niche in secondary markets. They also see opportunities for prosperity as Bemidji grows.
Citizens State Bank-Midwest is a nine-branch bank with headquarters in Cavalier, N.D., and two branches in Bemidji, one at 1060 Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest and one at 101 Shevlin Avenue Southwest. Both buildings are of log construction and Northwoods décor.
Citizens State Bank of Neche, N.D., opened in 1936. Later, the headquarters was moved to Pembina, N.D.
James Duncan, a vocational-agriculture teacher, and Les Taylor, a math and science teacher, went to work for the owner, Herb Paulson, in the 1950s. They bought the bank from the Paulson family in 1973.
Now, their sons, Jon Duncan and David Duncan, and Doug Taylor, and a retired partner, Neil Fedje, own the bank. They moved the headquarters to Cavalier in 1976.
When the owners opened a branch in Minnesota, they changed the name from Citizens State Bank of Pembina to Citizens State Bank-Midwest.
Jon Duncan, owner and senior vice president, said the bank's current assets are $160 million, up about 3 percent.
"Most of that growth is in our ag banks in North Dakota, because the last two years have been exceptional, especially in the Red River Valley," he said. "It's been good for us."
Mark Sparby, real estate loan officer and secondary market specialist, said the secondary markets are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation).
"Basically, we're shopping for the best possible rates for our customers," Sparby said.
Lenay Tieman, real estate loan officer, explained the service a customer would receive when applying for a home loan.
"I'd at that point be looking at the price of the house and the location of the house," she said.
The next step would be to make sure the borrower is qualified for the loan
"We qualify the borrower before they spend any money," Tieman said. "Then we qualify the house. Our goal is to do something for the person before it costs them anything."
After the appraisal of the property, the loan officers use a desktop underwriter computer program to send the application to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
"There's no board decision," said Sparby. "That's not relevant anymore. It's a lot less time consuming than the old days."
He said at one time it would take 60-90 days for a loan approval; now it takes half that time.
He added that they work with the secondary market for residential real estate loans, but commercial lending is in-house.
"I think we're getting a lot of the new business, new properties," Sparby said. "The market's picking up. Overall, it's steady."
Duncan noted that the Shevlin Avenue branch is across the street from the site of the Bemidji Regional Event Center. The jobs and economic activity the BREC is expected to generate will give the area a boost, he said.
"I think it's a strong picture for Bemidji," he said. "It's just going to take a while, like any other town."