American AgCredit, Sonoma County's largest financial institution, will stay in Santa Rosa and build a larger facility near the airport after rejecting a move to Denver.
Its new headquarters building will be constructed next year on land the farm lender has purchased along Airport Boulevard. The fast-growing ag cooperative, which has acquired five other lenders since 2000, has been operating at full capacity at its current building on Concourse Boulevard.
"We believe we're going to continue to grow," CEO Ron Carli said.
American AgCredit's assets exceeded $6 billion this month. In the last year the cooperative has hired about 15 new staff members in Sonoma County, Carli said. In all, it employs 400 workers, including about 100 in Sonoma County.
The nation's sixth-largest farm credit cooperative, American AgCredit purchased the property after conducting a formal study on whether to move its headquarters to Denver.
Its board of directors concluded the move wouldn't provide a large economic benefit, and the cooperative might lose a significant amount of "intellectual knowledge" from coworkers choosing not to relocate, said Carli.
The cooperative purchased 3.5 acres on the northwest corner of Aviation and Airport boulevards, where it has an option to buy up to 7.6 acres. Both its current and future locations sit near the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
"The plan's to hopefully break ground in 2013," Carli said.
The cooperative has yet to hire an architect but hopes to build a complex of about 50,000 square feet, Carli said. It will allow the lender to get its Sonoma County operations under one roof.
"We've grown substantially in the last few years and we've got people in different locations," he said.
The remaining land might become part of a county ag center complex, bringing together a variety of local institutions that serve farmers and ranchers. But Carli emphasized the concept is at an early stage, with potential participants simply "kicking tires."
American AgCredit, which opened in 1916, is a member of the nation's farm credit system, established by Congress to provide loans and other financial services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners.
The local cooperative is owned by roughly 7,000 shareholders, each a borrower who owns a single share of stock valued at $1,000. It has 32 branches in California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma.
In January, the cooperative completed its most recent acquisition of Farm Credit Services of the Mountain Plains of Greeley, Colo.