PORTLAND – Strengthening its presence in southern Maine, Bangor Savings Bank said Monday it will open four new branches in the greater Portland area.

The three Portland branches will be located at 180 Middle St. in the Old Port, on Allen Avenue at Northgate and on outer Forest Avenue. The fourth will occupy the former Saab dealership on Route 1 in Falmouth.

The expansion will cost $4 million and create 23 new jobs. The Middle Street branch is set to open in July. The other three are expected to open by January.

Bangor Savings is the state’s largest independent bank, with 52 existing branches and assets of more than $2.3 billion. As have other Maine banks headquartered elsewhere in the state, it has been expanding in southern Maine to take advantage of greater population and business growth.

The move further indicates Maine’s banking sector wasn’t as hard hit in the recession as lenders in other parts of the country, state regulators say.

“Community banking is very much alive in Maine,” Jim Conlon, Bangor Savings’ president and chief executive officer, said Monday during a news conference.

Bangor Savings has 650 employees. It opened its first Portland office at 280 Fore St. with 10 employees. The bank expanded by opening branches in Portland, South Portland and Scarborough in 2007. It also grew by buying Biddeford-based Pepperell Bank & Trust in 2007, and taking over five branches in York County.

In the Portland area, the bank has grown its deposits and funds total from $25.4 million five years ago to $194.5 million today. It has added 6,000 personal customers and 1,200 business customers.

Contributing to the growth, said Yellow Light Breen, the bank’s senior vice president and an architect of the expansion strategy, has been growing interest in a Maine brand, at a time when some large national lenders are being associated with the financial crisis.

“People are really looking for a local bank with local decision-making,” Breen said.

Bangor’s strategy has been mirrored in recent years by other out-of-town players, including Androscoggin Savings Bank, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and Norway Savings Bank. All have opened branches in the city or adjacent suburbs.

 

Staff writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or

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