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Security bankUSA: Family business spans four generations, 100 years

From left are Security BankUSA Vice President Tiffany Baer Paine, President John Baer and Vice President Ryan Baer in the bank lobby. Security BankUSA is celebrating 100 years of service to Bemidji under four generations of the Baer family with contributions to local charities and nonprofits. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

The year Security State Bank was chartered on Feb. 7, 1910, a young man named Homer C. Baer moved to Bemidji from Kenyon, Minn., for a job.

He started work at the bank and eventually bought it in 1915.

In 1946, the second Homer Baer, whom everyone called "Bill," joined the bank. He became president in 1959.

The second Homer's son, John Baer joined the bank in 1967 and became president in 1979, a position he continues to occupy.

Now the fourth generation, Tiffany Baer Paine, vice president of operations, and her brother, Ryan Baer, vice president for business banking, are part of the team.

"I think it's hard in any business to have four generations," said Paine. "I am very fortunate to have grown up with great mentors and a great community."

Instead of an anniversary party, Sylvia Wildgen, vice president for sales and marketing, said Security BankUSA owner, board of directors and staff decided to dedicate the significant milestone to giving back to the community. They listed all the community charities and nonprofits to which they personally contribute time and money. The list was then narrowed t down to 10 organizations that would receive funds from the Security BankUSA Foundation.

"So, the whole staff had input," Wildgen said. "Whenever I call and say we're going to make a donation, they're kind of surprised."

Security BankUSA, which adopted that name in 1999 to distinguish the Bemidji bank from the many Security States nationwide, has grown with the Bemidji community.

On Jan. 24, 1935, the original bank at 323 Beltrami Avenue Northwest burned, along with nine businesses and apartments, on the same block. When salvagers entered the vault they discovered all the bank's records still intact. However, Paine said the marks of the fire are still visible in the dark basement stones. In 1936 the bank was rebuilt on the same foundation.

The bank opened a drive-up branch in 1975 and opened a branch in the Paul Bunyan Mall in 1982. The owners bought land for a new facility at 1025 Paul Bunyan Drive N.W., and completed the bank at its current site in 1997. In 2007, they expanded the main bank.

The expansion nearly doubled the space and allowed addition of officers in real estate and commercial lending.

The architect, Jack Boarman of BKV Group, designed a modernistic copper-clad façade for the expansion.

"It has everything," Paine said. "It has the classic brick. It has the unique vestibule. It has the copper changing with the times."