CEO says another Cornelius office on the way

HUNTERSVILLE – Jim Engel’s Aquesta Bank will finally have a strong physical presence in Lake Norman’s largest town.

The Cornelius-based bank celebrated the groundbreaking of its fifth branch, to be located off N.C. 73 near Northcross Shopping Center, on Dec. 19. The new branch will be one of Aquesta’s largest in terms of size. It will also feature a community room to help businesses conduct meetings.

Local government and business leaders stopped by to look at the lay of the land and to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony.

“This is kind of showing that our economy is bouncing back,” Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain said. “Aquesta Bank has the reputation of fitting in perfectly with Huntersville, and that’s with friendly customer focus and people who truly get involved in the community.”

The bank’s ability to succeed and expand after the late-2000s economic downturn speaks to the viability of businesses in the lake area, Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce President Bill Russell said.

“We’ve got a lot of capital in Lake Norman. There’s no doubt about that,” Russell said. “We’re seeing houses being sold at every price level, and that’s good. You’re glad to see that activity back again, and it’s really good to see Aquesta be able to grow along with this community.

“When you have a bank that was founded in your area and it’s composed of board members from your area, you feel more comfortable about approaching them for the loans that you need.”

Engel said he hopes to add smaller branches in Huntersville in the future, but the first branch in town – which is expected to open in May or June 2014 – will be the “main hub” for Huntersville.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” he said. “We really want to be the bank of Lake Norman. We’ve certainly made good strides in that, having Mooresville, Davidson and Cornelius branches, but Huntersville has always been the centerpiece of that strategic plan for us. We want to serve the smaller, mid-size companies in this area. We’ve had tremendous growth, and we’re very excited about this branch.”

There was a mixed bag of circumstances that led Aquesta to open branches in Mooresville and Davidson before coming to Huntersville.

“It was more luck than strategy,” Engel said. “Huntersville was always very important to us. When we first started, the road configuration on (Interstate 77) and Sam Furr Road was less than ideal. We had been looking at this lot before the recession hit. It’s always been on the radar.

“When the recession hit, we had to pull in the reins and make sure that the ship was doing well before we proceeded forward.”

Engel said plans are in place for another Cornelius branch, as well, which he expects to open sooner than the first Huntersville branch, because it won’t require ground-up development.

“I can’t say how exciting this is for us,” he said. “It’s in a great location, a great town, an upbeat environment and a great situation. It’s a far cry from 2008 and 2009, which is a good thing.”