Sterling will lay off 63 employees in Vancouver

Spokane-based bank recently acquired First Independent

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



Sterling Bank, which this year acquired Vancouver-based First Independent Bank, has filed notice that it will lay off 63 workers in Vancouver beginning Aug. 3.

The workers set to lose their jobs perform “back office” functions at a downtown Vancouver service center that are no longer needed under the new bank ownership, said Cara Coon, Sterling’s public affairs director. The workers will be given severance packages, but Coon would not disclose details. Most of the layoffs will take place in early August, but some could extend for weeks or months due to personal circumstances, she said.

The layoffs had been expected ever since Sterling disclosed last fall that it would purchase First Independent, which had been one of the nation’s last family-owned banks. Coon said Sterling had anticipated the need for a larger layoff, but some former First Independent workers have retired, relocated within Sterling, or found new jobs outside the bank, she said.

Not the first

This won’t be the first layoff since Sterling’s acquistion of First Independent. At the time of its closing on Feb. 29, First Independent had 243 full-time employees. As part of the transition at that time, an estimated 18 workers were laid off; six retired; and nine went to work for a company owned by the Firstenburg family, which had owned First Independent. That left approximately 209 employees who transitioned to Sterling.

Sterling submitted its legal notice of the layoffs last week to the Department of Employment Security, Coon said. In

general, employers are required to give notification when eliminating more than 50 jobs in one location.

Sterling says it will make a full conversion of former First Independent operations under its banner beginning July 23. Customers are being notified this month of the details of those changes.

Marty Dickinson, Sterling’s executive vice president for marketing and communications, said recently that Sterling has renegotiated its lease of the former First Independent headquarters at 1220 Main St. in downtown Vancouver and will consolidate its operations on the first and third floors.

First Independent traced its origins to the founding of Ridgefield State Bank in 1910. It had $780 million in assets at the end of last year and operated 14 branches in Clark and Skamania counties.

“At this time, we continue to go through the process of monitoring all branch performances, and we’re not closing branches at this time,” Dickinson said recently.

Sterling is preparing to open a downtown Portland branch in October that had been in the works by First Independent before the sale, she said.