Northwest Bank Just Keeps Growing - Like Fort Dodge, its Future is Looking Good
on Friday, February 3, 2017
John Taets was already a leader in the Fort Dodge banking world in 2003. He had been part of that community for more than a decade and the local president of Wells Fargo since 2000. That year, however, he embarked on a new adventure. He accepted the challenge of launching a Northwest Bank presence in Fort Dodge.
“We started with nothing,” said Taets, who is Northwest Bank’s regional president, reflecting on the day the bank opened its doors in Fort Dodge in May 2003. “We didn’t have any loans. We didn’t have any deposits. We had a staff of six people when we started. We were in a rented facility. In November 2003, we completed the building we are now in as our permanent location.”
Nearly 14 years later, Northwest Bank is a success story not only in Fort Dodge, but also across a large section of the Hawkeye State and beyond. “We’re part of Northwest Financial Corp., which is about $1.5 billion in assets organization,” Taets said. “We have 24 locations in 17 communities.”
The region Taets oversees for the bank includes Fort Dodge, Humboldt and Algona. “I call it the 169 Corridor,” he said. Most of the Northwest’s outlets are in north central and northwestern Iowa, but it also has two locations in Omaha, Nebraska.
Growth has been the constant theme at Northwest Bank in the 21st century. Substantial expansion in Fort Dodge has been a major part of that story. “We got to a point with our growth where we looked for an acquisition,” Taets said. “That’s when in April 2012 we acquired the Bank of America in downtown Fort Dodge. It enabled us expand our footprint in the Fort Dodge market with the two solid locations – one in the Crossroads area and one downtown. With that, we’ve seen excellent growth again. Today we have a staff of 24 team members at the two locations.” According to Taets the key to thriving in a diverse market like Fort Dodge and Webster County is to offer an eclectic array of services.
“When you sit in Fort Dodge, Iowa, you need to be everything to everybody,” he said. “That’s what we do. From a community bank standpoint, we can take care of all of your needs. We’re truly a full-service bank. We do commercial, ag, retail lending, home mortgages. We’re leading edge on a lot of things.”
Survival and success in banking require that an institution have financial strength but Taets said it is also very much related to establishing that right type of relationships with customers.
“People bank with people they know and they trust,” he said. “The people who bank here trust that we have their best interests in mind and we do. When our customers succeed, we succeed. Our tag line is ‘a commitment you can bank on’ and we truly mean that.”
Being a contributing part of the communities where it does business is an important part of the Northwest Bank game plan, Taets said. “We put a lot of emphasis on our team members being involved in the communities in which they live and serve,” he said. “We allow time at work for them to participate in organizations. We encourage them to participate. We want to make sure that they are giving back to their communities. The bank contributes financially to a lot of organizations. This last year I believe we gave over $50,000 in commitments to Fort Dodge.” That local focus is part of what makes Northwest Bank a somewhat unique financial institution, Taets said. “Our competitive advantage here is that our organization is an Iowa-based organization,” he said. “Our owners (Neal and Dwight Conover) grew up on a farm in Holstein, Iowa. We know Iowa. It’s where our footprint is. We are an Iowa-based company that has done well because we are an Iowa-based company. We know our markets. We know what makes us a part of the community. We’re community banks. Our people live and work in those communities. So, we want to make sure they succeed.”
Taets said the booming local economy has helped Northwest Bank and the other banks here prosper. “The community itself has really taken off and we are proud to be a part of that,” he said. “Fort Dodge had a growth spurt over the last few years and is poised to continue to do well. We wouldn’t have two locations in Fort Dodge if we weren’t optimistic about the growth.”
That the town features a number of robust banks is a good indicator that it is moving in the right direction economically, according to Taets. “Fort Dodge is a very fortunate market because we have solid banks,” he said. “The Fort Dodge community is awful lucky to have the banks that we have. We’re all competitors, but when you look at the Growth Alliance and other organizations, we’re all pulling in the same direction. ... When I look at the Fort Dodge community those institutions give back to the community so that it can do the things it needs to succeed. ... We’re competitors, no doubt but when a project comes up that needs community support, we are all in it together.”
Meet John Taets
Taets grew up in Osage and graduated from Osage Community High School in 1981. Then it was on to Iowa State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1985, majoring in ag business. “I went to work for a small bank over in eastern Iowa and from there I went to work for the Federal Land Bank and from there came to Norwest here,” Taets said. He moved to Fort Dodge in 1992. Norwest became Wells Fargo.
“I was president of Wells Fargo in 2000 and left in 2003 and started this bank,” Taets said. “The opportunity existed with Neal and Dwight (Conover) to start a community bank here in Fort Dodge. At the time, I felt Fort Dodge could benefit from a community bank. It’s been a great move for me, both personally and professionally. The community has been fantastic to me and my family and we have tried to give back to that community.”
Taets is an active part of the town’s civic life. He’s a past board chair of UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge and is currently on the board and finance committee. He’s also on the UnityPoint Clinic board. Taets also is active in the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance. Additionally, he’s a member of the Trails Committee and on the finance committee of St. Edmond Catholic Schools and Holy Trinity Parish. Taets is active in banking professional groups. He’s been on various American Bankers Association boards and committees including its national agriculture committee.
Banking has proved to be a profession that suits Taets well, he said. “I like banking,” Taets said. “I like to see people take a business and grow it with our help. There is no better feeling than that, there really isn’t. I truly look at it as when they succeed, we succeed. It’s a great relationship. It puts a smile on my face.” He’s very enthused about the bank’s future. “We continue to look for opportunities within the communities in our region,” Taets said. We look forward to the future. We’re looking to grow our footprint in the region. We’re very optimistic about it.”