It took about a minute to complete the first deposit at the new First Interstate Bank on U.S. 93, and almost as long to find a pen to write the inaugural check.
Following a short search, James Stremme of Torrent Technologies, Inc., located a pen on the other side of the counter and signed a $400,000 check Thursday morning to officially mark the bank’s birth.
Branch Manager Jarrod Shew said it was an exciting moment, not only because there’s a new bank in town, but also because it is the beginning of a unique entrepreneurial relationship between a couple of Montana boys who are focused on Flathead’s economy.
“We’re just two Montana natives hooking up and creating some economy in the valley,” Shew said.
Torrent CEO Travis Pine, who grew up in Kalispell, and Shew, a Helena native, know each other from childhood sports. They say they are creating a business partnership that should serve as a model for making money in the valley and keeping it here.
“These guys could have easily gone with a bank in California,” Shew said.
Torrent Technologies helps companies that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program earn revenue through a state of the art processing and claims administration system. It has offices in Seattle and Kalispell, with about 25 employees in Kalispell. Pine said he expects the Kalispell office to have at least 180 employees by the end of next year.
Construction on the new bank started at the end of 2006 because First Interstate officials, especially President Bob Schneider, Shew said, felt another branch was necessary to keep up with the valley’s growth. Swank Enterprises built the 5,700 square-foot project, which cost $3.2 million, Shew said.
The branch is a full-service bank with 13 employees. Along with Torrent Technologies, Shew said the bank emphasizes working with money that is made locally and recycled back in the local economy. For example, a significant amount of mortgages at Flathead banks deal with second homes, but Shew said his bank will focus more on people who live and work full-time here.
“That’s much more gratifying,” he said.