When he began working at Grand Rapids State Bank in December 2014, Jeff told his colleagues on the lending team this would be the last job he holds in his banking career. “So far, so good,” Jeff commented when he was asked about his role as Chief Lending Officer.
Jeff Lee was born and raised in Hibbing, and that background and experience has helped Grand Rapids State Bank push its market footprint a bit further east and north of the Grand Rapids area. “We have to grow and expand, and my contacts have helped us develop more traction in the Hibbing area. We also just recently closed a loan in International Falls, and we’re always on the lookout for good deals.
“We are the bank of choice for commercial borrowers in the Itasca County area,” said Jeff, “and we want to capitalize on that strength wherever we can.” Jeff noted that the Grand Rapids community is steadily growing and appears to the most vibrant Iron Range community.
Jeff’s knowledge of commercial banking was built over the 31 years he’s worked in the business. After cutting his teeth in banking at ITT Finance in Minneapolis, he landed positions with Marquette Bank in Eden Prairie and Brookdale. In 1994 he was successful in his efforts to return to the Range: he was hired as the market president of American Bank of the North’s Hibbing bank. He later worked for Republic Bank in Hibbing and then Queen City Federal/Frandsen Bank in Virginia.
“I know the values and ambitions of people on the Range,” said Jeff. “Each of these communities has a lot of civic pride, and the color of the high school letter jackets is important. But at the end of the day, people on the Range have common values and interests.”
Jeff is proud of the stability among his lending team since his arrival four-and-a-half years ago. They have built solid working relationships, and one of his strategic goals is to mentor those younger lenders. His other goal is to continue to grow the loan portfolio, something he has seen occur at GRSB despite increasing competition.
Jeff serves on the Northeast Minnesota Workforce Development Board. This group is dedicated to quality workforce development endeavors throughout northeastern Minnesota. “The Office of Job Training is working hard to recruit young people into the skilled trades,” Jeff explained. “We will be facing a labor shortage here on the Range, and we need to do what we can to address that issue.”
Beyond traditional banking and civic involvement, Jeff and his wife, Sheri, are proud of their two children. Justine works as a speech pathologist in Philadelphia while his son, Jarrett, is finishing his first year at Northern Michigan University. Jarrett landed a spot on the NMU Wildcats hockey roster after successfully battling a form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a high school student. The cancer is in remission, and Jeff and Sheri couldn’t be more relieved.
“One of the things I’ve helped accomplish here at GRSB is to bring a bit more fun to work,” added Jeff. “Banking is serious business, but if we can have fun while doing this work, our customers appreciate that.”