Former Thurston First Bank President and Chief Executive Jim Haley has a favorite saying these days: Until we meet again.
In other words, Haley is no longer part of the bank, but he hopes to be a familiar face around Olympia, possibly testifying on behalf of banks on the Capitol Campus. He also will continue to serve on the Washington Center for the Performing Arts board.
Haley, 66, retired from the bank, following its merger with Commencement Bank in Tacoma. That ended a long career as a bank executive, which first began when he was recruited by Bank of America at the University of Redlands in Southern California. The sociology major joined a management training program and never looked back. Before he joined Thurston First in November 2004, he was previously a senior credit officer at US Bank. Haley grew up in Tacoma.
Haley’s tenure at Thurston First probably was best defined by the bank’s decision to move to downtown Olympia and take part in the redevelopment of a former state office into a mixed-use destination. It is now home to the bank, a pub and market-rate housing.
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We sat down with Jim to ask him five questions about his time in Olympia at Thurston First.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Going forward, I want to do something in financial services advocacy because I want to give back to the banking industry that has been so good to me for the last 46 years.
Q: What do you like about Olympia?
A: Olympia turned out to be completely different than I thought it was going to be. First, I didn’t realize how many people love Olympia. I couldn’t even spell diversity when I got here and now I appreciate everything that happens in Olympia, including its deep social agenda. My wife and I have come to love this place.
Q: What does Olympia need?
A: The economics of Olympia is a little bit opposite of what it should be. It should be a desirable place to live, drawing market-rate housing and businesses. It should be a magnet for people to live here, driving tax revenue, filling city coffers which can then be reinvested into the city. There is too much of an emphasis on subsidized housing and too many small businesses are struggling. It needs to continue going in the direction I think it’s going now, which is safer with more market-rate housing. Hopefully, downtown will see more business activity to drive that revenue base so the city can continue to support its social agenda. As for serving the homeless, it needs to be better organized and coordinated to take care of those who need to be taken care of. Some thought I came across as against people who are struggling with their lives. No, we just need to be more organized.
Q: What was it like to move downtown?
A: The Pear Street location was a bit invisible. It was a nice place, but it was kind of a lonely experience. But then to go downtown to be where the action is was a thrill. It was different and exciting every day, and we met new people every day. We became part of the community at that point.
Q: What issue are you passionate about when it comes to banks and advocacy?
A: One of the issues has to do with the difference between credit unions and banks. If the community bank is going to be taxed, that’s fine, you build the business model around it. The credit union model has a different set of regulations, and if you have a different set of regulations and no taxation, you have a 30 percent pricing advantage. Credit unions are fine and they serve a purpose and they do a good job in a lot of areas, but if you are going to compete in the same space (business lending), the rules, regulations and taxation should be the same.