WATERLOO — Lincoln Savings Bank kicked off its planned $18.3 million expansion in downtown Waterloo with a nod to the historic space it plans to take over.
“I hope our architect and our contractor can incorporate some of this history of this building into the renovation,” said Milt Dakovich, president of the bank board.
Dakovich joined bank president Eric Skovgard and chief financial officer Emily Girsch in a ceremonial sand toss Thursday on the sixth floor of the Tech 1 Building at 360 Westfield Ave. on the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus.
The bank is buying and renovating into an operations center the top three floors of the six-story building, built in 1947 as part of Deere and Co.’s tractor manufacturing operations.
“This is really exciting,” Dakovich said. “We’re going to get a lot of people in the same place. There’s going to be great synergy. This is going to be a fantastic space when it’s done, in a great town.”
Lincoln Savings Bank has a lot in common with the past and present tenants of the building.
Like John Deere, the bank founded in 1902 has more than 100 years of history and strong ties to Iowa’s agricultural community. Like the the University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Additive Manufacturing Center on the ground floor, LSB is fueling its growth with innovative technology.
The bank’s LSBX division is a major reason for the hiring boom that forced it to seek out a location to expand.
LSBX is based on the growing financial technologies, or “fintech,” industry and provides banking services for the millions of people opening accounts through mobile and online applications.
Customers like Swedish-based Qapital, an app that helps people save money through spending habits, and others like Square Cash App, Acorns, Q2 and MoneyLion essentially use LSBX as the bank accounts for their users.
“We were fortunate to be into it early,” said Mike McCrary, first vice president of LSBX. “Really in the last two years we’ve seen a lot more banks jumping in and wanting to be involved in this.
“We’re a very strong commercial bank. We do a lot of commercial lending here in the Cedar Valley. We do a lot of commercial lending in the Des Moines area,” he added. “Our trajectory as a bank was very positive, and that gave us the latitude to do something else.”
But the jump from 20,000 retail banking customers overwhelmed the operations center the bank bought in 2014.
“With the growth of LSBX it increased our client base by 2.5 million people, which triggers a lot more operations staff,” said Andrea Devore, facilities manager. “We’ve had tremendous growth that will continue in the the next year, two years, three years.
“We’ve been hiring, but we’re putting people in training rooms,” she said. “We needed something big that can accommodate growth.”
LSB president and CEO Erik Skovgard said the location will house 125 staff members initially and provide space for up to 300 employees over the next five years. Many of those will be high-paying accounting, auditing and information technology jobs.
During the ground-breaking event, the bank showed off the design for the new offices, which includes turning the sixth floor into more of a mezzanine with open views of the fifth floor.
Invision Architecture of Waterloo is designing the renovation. Peters Construction Corp. of Waterloo is the contractor hoping to have the space ready for occupancy by January 2021.
“We’ve got a long way to go to turn this into what it’s going to become,” Skovgard said.
The city of Waterloo and Iowa Economic Development Authority both stepped forward with development incentives to help make the project a reality.
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