First Western acquisition of BlackRidge Financial good for entire region

First Western Bank & Trust is about to get bigger. A lot bigger and in a very positive way.

It was announced last week that First Western’s holding company, Westbrand Inc., has entered an agreement with BlackRidge Financial, the holding company of BlackRidgeBank, whereby Westbrand will acquire BlackRidge Financial and merge the operations under the First Western Bank & Trust name.

The deal, which still needs the approval of regulators, would result in First Western Bank & Trust expanding its operations to include 15 locations in 11 communities.

No banks get closed, no customers lose face-to-face contact with bankers they have grown accustomed to dealing with. Combined assets of the organization will approach $1.7 billion and about 300 people from Minot to Bismarck to Fargo to Minneapolis and points in between will have employment with a stable institution.

We call that a big deal; a wise investment in the customers First Western and BlackRidge Financial so capably serve.

The wider market also will bring more diversity to the bank’s loan portfolio and deposit base, said First Western’s president and CEO, Brenda Foster.

“It will give us nice diversity, and the cultures of the two organizations are very similar. They have great people from the Midwest and they really fit in with our team very well,” Foster said. “They are very involved in their community. Our people are involved in our community. So that will continue in all locations.”

It is not unheard of for small towns to lose banks today, just as they lose hospitals, schools and grocery stores. This decision only strengthens the communities served by First Western and BlackRidge Financial banks. That is another reason this acquisition and melding of staff and assets is such a big deal – to Minot and to the entire region.