Banner Bank Selected as First Washington State Bank for Ex-Im Bank Pilot Bank in U.S. Global Business Solutions Program

WALLA WALLA, Wash., Nov. 5, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Banner Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of Banner Corporation (Nasdaq:BANR), announced today that it has become the latest partner-bank in the U.S. Global Business Solutions Program, a new interagency initiative designed to expand the reach of federal export assistance and add 50,000 small businesses to the nation's exporter base by 2017.

The pilot program aims to expand the base of financial institutions and service providers that facilitate exports, adding an anticipated 250 trade-finance sources by December 2015.

"We are delighted to partner with Banner Bank as part of the U.S. Global Solutions Program," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "Banner Bank's support of U.S. exporters enhances the appeal of the 'Made in America' brand abroad and boosts small-business jobs here at home."

Banner Bank is the only bank headquartered in Washington state currently participating in the program.

"Banner Bank is a perfect fit to partner with Ex-Im Bank in the U.S. Global Business Solutions initiative to increase exports from small businesses," said James Burrows, Acting Senior Vice President, Small Business for Ex-Im Bank. "Banner's familiarity with the region and keen insight into the challenges and needs of small businesses in the northwest was a considerable benefit to Ex-Im as we made our selection for a pilot bank in Washington. Banner's demonstrated strength in SBA lending and its preferred lender status in the SBA's Export Working Capital Program significantly enhances our offerings through the U.S. Global Solutions Program."

Leading Banner Bank's International Trade services is Debbie Gelbach, First Vice President. Gelbach joined Banner to help establish the trade finance operations at Banner and has worked in international trade in Washington State since 1979.

"Being selected as the only regional bank headquartered in Washington State to participate in the U.S. Global Business Solutions initiative demonstrates Banner's capabilities in international trade finance and our commitment to this critical sector of the market," Gelbach said. "Inclusion as a pilot bank for Export-Import Bank, coupled with our lending resources through the Small Business Administration, our involvement in this initiative opens a world of opportunities for our clients looking to expand the reach of their businesses overseas. We have always been able to guide our clients through the intricacies of importing and exporting goods and services through traditional trade products. Now our capabilities are expanded through our selection by Ex-Im Bank to partner with them on this financing initiative."

Other components of the U.S. Global Business Solutions initiative involve key products offered by the Small Business Administration, in which Banner Bank has strong lending capabilities. Walter McLaughlin, Senior Vice President and SBA Manager at Banner, believes the bank's participation in this program has the potential to contribute to economic growth in the Pacific Northwest. "Banner understands the vital role small businesses play in our economy, and we strive to help entrepreneurs convert ideas into successful businesses that contribute to our communities," McLaughlin said. "Banner's proven SBA lending capability, coupled with our selection as a pilot bank for Ex-Im's Global Business Solutions Program, will certainly enable us to help more small businesses export their goods from the Northwest to other countries throughout the world. Helping our clients build successful businesses that contribute to our local economic growth is what Banner Bank is all about."

About U.S. Global Business Solutions Program

U.S. Global Business Solutions will bundle U.S. government trade-finance products for lenders and exporters. The programs and products will be combined into a single menu of options that will be tailored to the stage of the exporter's development and the capacity of the financial institution or service provider. The initiative will be designed to make it easier and more cost-effective for exporters to use the programs and products of multiple agencies.

Six federal agencies are participating: Ex-Im Bank, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce/ International Trade Administration, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

About Banner Bank

Banner Bank is a Washington-chartered commercial bank that conducts business from 85 locations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Banner Bank is a community bank which offers a wide variety of commercial banking services and financial products to individuals and small and medium-sized businesses and their employees in its primary market area. Visit Banner Bank on the Web at www.bannerbank.com.

About Banner Corporation

Banner Corporation is a $4.3 billion bank holding company operating two commercial banks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Banner serves the Pacific Northwest region with a full range of consumer and business deposit services, commercial real estate, construction, residential, agricultural and consumer loans.

CONTACT: Dianne Larsen, Sr. Vice President, Director of Marketing DLarsen@bannerbank.comSource:Banner Corporation