Mark Willer Named Market President for Merchants Bank’s New Location in Eau Claire

Mark Willer

Mark Willer

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Merchants Bank has named long-time Eau Claire financial services leader Mark Willer as Market President for its new Eau Claire location, according to Merchants Financial Group President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“Mark has a deep understanding of the financial needs of consumers and businesses in the Chippewa Valley. His experience in our industry and genuine belief in the importance of community makes him a natural fit for our banking Team,” Nelson said.

Willer has been a part of the Eau Claire community since 1979 and from 1984 until recently had been a key part of the management team at Royal Credit Union, serving as Chief Operating Officer for 15 years.

“Merchants is the perfect fit for me. The values of the organization are the same that are important to me. Merchants believes in enriching the lives of the people who live and work in our community,” Willer said. “I look forward to introducing the Merchants brand to the area.”

Willer has a long history of community involvement and leadership. He is currently President of Downtown Eau Claire, Inc., a member of the local Junior Achievement board, a member of the City of Altoona Finance Committee, a member of the St. Mary’s Parish Endowment Fund Committee, co-chair for Taste of Eau Claire, and a past board member of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I look forward in taking the lead as Merchants Bank serves our community,” Willer said.

Merchants Bank has agreed to purchase Alliance Bank’s Mall Drive location, as well as deposits and loans from the Mall Drive location and Alliance’s Pinnacle Way location. All told, Merchants Bank will be acquiring about $48 million in deposits and $17 million in loans. The sale has received regulatory approval and is expected to be completed February 14. Terms of the sale have not been released.

Merchants Bank to Acquire Alliance Bank Location in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

MahoneyDickMerchants Bank and Alliance Bank have come to an agreement for Merchants Bank to purchase an Alliance Bank location in Eau Claire, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO Richard L. Mahoney.

“We believe this is an excellent opportunity to expand into an important market,” Mahoney said. “We believe that our expertise in business banking and company resources will be appealing to business owners in the Eau Claire area.”

The purchase includes the Alliance Bank Mall Drive location, as well as deposits and loans from the Mall Drive location and Alliance’s Pinnacle Way location. All told, Merchants Bank will be acquiring about $48 million in deposits and $17 million in loans.

“We know that Merchants Bank will take care of customers from both locations and will provide those customers the service they have come to expect,”said V. Philip Reim of Alliance Bank.
Terms of the sale were not released. Pending regulatory approval, Mahoney said he anticipates the sale being completed near the middle of February.

“Our strong equity position allows us to act on opportunities that make sense for us to pursue,” Mahoney said. “With our organic growth and acquisitions, we expect continued growth for the foreseeable future.”

For this and other Merchants Bank news:

Good for the Community…

When Pete Woodworth’s grandfather’s plane landed in Winona on a Sunday in 1943 at the then municipal airport, Walker Woodworth was met by three people, including Winona’s mayor, and the President of Merchants National Bank, J.R. Chappel.

By the time Woodworth left Winona the next day, Winona had a new business, the Winona Knitting Mills, and Merchants Bank had started a long-term relationship with the Woodworth family.

The relationship has grown. Walker’s son and Pete’s father, Les, was on the Merchants Bank Board of Directors for more than 20 years, and Pete has been a member of the Merchants Bank Board of Directors and the Merchants Financial Group Board of Directors since 1988.

By the Fall of 1943, the Winona Knitting Mills was up and running, and it ran for 57 years in the same location at 902 E. 2nd Street, expanding along the way. The building went from three stories and 8,000 square feet to more than six buildings and 175,000 square feet. By 1995 the company had grown to be the third largest men’s sweater manufacturer in the United States.

By late 1995, the Winona Knitting Mills merged with Hampshire Group Limited, the largest woman’s sweater manufacturer in the USA, and by 2002, Pete and his wife Joyce, had sold their interests, but there still was the issue of what to do with the property. Pete and Joyce converted the property into a professional business campus.

“We took the chance and developed it into a community resource,” Pete said.

The campus, which includes the main building that Walker first purchased, a warehouse, and four satellite buildings on eight acres, now has more than 40 tenants. The tenants are varied. The terms given the businesses are as varied as the types of businesses themselves, including graduated rates over time and phased in rental payments.

“We’re trying to make it easier for them to get up and running so the businesses are viable for the long-term,” Pete said. “It’s pragmatic. It’s good for them. It’s good for our family. It’s good for the community, and it’s good for Merchants Bank because many of these businesses are borrowing from the bank, and we’re borrowing from the bank.”

In 2004, Pete and Joyce gave WKM Properties to their children Nathan, Jacob and Lindsay. In 2009 Nathan took over running the business, which also includes a 7000 square foot building in downtown Winona, a 10,000 square foot building in Goodview and a 40,000 square foot building in Rochester.

“I’ve always liked tweaking and strengthening things, and this has been very satisfying,” Pete said. “We thought of it as planting something that would grow, something we could pass on to benefit Merchants Bank, the community and our family.”


Small Business Administration

SBARefreshENA Business Banker from Merchants Bank will provide specialized support for your specific business financing request. Our numerous business loan program options are designed to meet the specific needs of your business, from a business line of credit to fleet financing.

We are a SBA Preferred Lender, which means we can help qualified applicants right when they need us. We’ll listen and help you with the business loan you need. It’s that simple. Contact a Business Banker today to schedule a free, no obligation review of your business. Work with someone who cares about your business as much as you do. At Merchants Bank, we care about you and what’s right for your business. Loans are subject to credit approval.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota Receives $426 in Merchants Bank’s 10 for 10 Celebration

10 for 10 Ronald McDonald House

Pictured are Steve Christiansen, Merchants Bank, Kristina Schoh of Ronald McDonald House, and Shawn Sackman of Merchants Bank.

ONALASKA, WIS. – Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota was the July recipient of Merchants Bank in Onalaska’s 10 for 10 program, receiving a check for $426 for contributions made in July.

The organization directly improves the health and well-being of children by providing them a bridge to accessible health care.

“It’s great to see the work that Ronald McDonald House of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota does in this area and how it touches the lives of people that we all know throughout the region,” said Steve Christiansen, President of Merchants Bank in Onalaska.

The 10 for 10 celebration features a different area nonprofit each month. Merchants grants the nonprofit $10 a day for each day of the month and matches up to another $10 a day that the nonprofit receives in donations over the month. Merchants granted $300 for June and matched another $63 dropped off at the Bank for the benefit of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota.

The August nonprofit featured is the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater La Crosse Area.

Leadership Leads to Opportunity

Tim Murphy sets the pace in Caledonia

Tim MurphyLeadership has led to opportunity in Caledonia as Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) Board Member Tim Murphy’s engagement in the community has opened doors for Merchants Bank.

Murphy, who is on the Caledonia Advisory Board of Directors, as well as the MFGI Board, has taken a leadership role in community projects since 1975. His involvement, along with the involvement of Merchants Bank and the employees of Merchants Bank in Caledonia, has contributed to making Caledonia a better place to live.

Murphy is on the Board of the 4 Seasons Community Center. The community center was built about 10 years ago with $1.2 million raised from community donations. The fundraising for the project was spearheaded by Merchants Bank leadership and Merchants was a significant donor.

“That’s a great accomplishment for a town of 2,700, and one that the town can take pride in achieving,” Murphy said, adding that the facility now runs on donations and rental fees.

Murphy has led the fundraising for a new $1.7 million swimming pool for Caledonia. Murphy wants to make the new pool happen without raising taxes to pay for the project.

At Murphy’s urging, Merchants took a lead in the pool project, pledging the first $25,000. By the end of 2012, the project had reached $1.1 million and Merchants had increased its pledge to $100,000. Murphy pointed out that these donations are in addition to the hours employees and other board members spend volunteering and supporting community organizations.

“The Bank is being recognized for its generosity, and the Bank has a history of community involvement. People see who is taking an interest,” Murphy said, adding that Merchants’ business model of local decision making is good thing for the Bank in Caledonia and the community.

Craig (Caledonia Bank President Craig Schroeder) has a real good understanding of what’s important in this community,” Murphy said.

Murphy has practiced law in Caledonia since becoming an attorney in 1975. A native of Blue Earth, Minn., Murphy said that practicing in a smaller town has had benefits for the Bank as well.

He also knows that you have to pay your dues, work hard and show people that you really care about them. He said that’s especially true in banking.

“I’m a firm believer that you get back what you put into something, and people see Merchants is putting its money and employee volunteer time into the community. That is important to them when they make their banking decisions,” Murphy said.

Planting Seeds; Growing Business

Ryan BruceIt was after a storm in the Spring of 2001 that Merchants Bank in Rochester President John Doyle asked his insurance agent for a referral for someone to repair the Green Meadows branch after it had been damaged in a storm.

The insurance agent suggested Bruce Ryan, owner of Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc. By 2003, Ryan was a member of the Winona Board of Directors and then later the Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Board of Directors.

“Bruce has an excellent reputation in the Rochester area,” Doyle said. “We are fortunate to have him as a friend, board member and customer.”

Ryan’s relationship with Merchants grew and soon he started referring Merchants to the people he knew. He understands that referrals can have a great impact, especially when those referrals are low-key.

“Being on the board, I know how good the bank is. How sound and secure it is. I like to spread the word, but I don’t do it in a direct manner,” Ryan said. “If the subject comes up, I’ll share information about the Bank and let them know if they’re interested in other options, that they should consider Merchants. When you do it that way, you get to plant the seed with a lot of people. Sometimes, It takes a while. I planted a seed six or seven years ago that’s just now beginning to grow.”

Ryan is involved in his community. He is the past President of the Ronald McDonald House, where he continues to volunteer. He also volunteers at Gift of Life Transplant House and Hiawatha Homes, which promotes independence and community involvement for those with disabilities. He is also involved in supporting other causes throughout the Rochester area and often sees members of Merchants’ staff at those same events.

“It’s great to be able to talk to others about the quality people who work at the Bank, and then those employees happen to be at the event and you can introduce them,” Ryan said.

Ryan looks at his Board involvement as part of being on a big team that includes staff and other Board members from across all Merchants’ locations. He said he likes to look at Merchants from a customer’s perspective and he’s proud of what he sees.

“I’m very, very happy with the level of service I receive and my experience as a customer,” Ryan said. “I know the people I refer to Merchants will be treated the same way.”

This story is an excerpt from our 2012 Annual Report. Click here to view the full Annual Report.