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ARCHIVED  April 1, 1997

Firstate’s Weins build diverse businesses

When it comes to standing tall among Colorado’s business leaders, the Weins family stands like a “Fourteener.”

Today, the family owns successful businesses that trek east and west of the Interstate 25 corridor from as far south as El Paso County to as far north as Larimer and Weld counties and include banking, ranching, innkeeping and recycling.

The Loveland family owns Northglenn-based Firstate Bank of Colorado, which recently expanded into the Northern Colorado market with the acquisition of First Northern Savings Bank of Greeley.

If you follow the Weins’ Colorado tracks backward in time, you’ll come to a small town in Oklahoma where, as a young man, Joel Weins, the current family patriarch, felt the first nudge of the entrepreneurial gene that would drive him for the rest of his life.

Weins explained: “When I was 16, I borrowed money from my grandfather to buy a truck. When I was 17, I borrowed money from him to buy a combine. When I graduated from college, I had six combines, six trucks, two trailer houses, two pickups, a new convertible and an airplane. Paid for.”

For the next few years, Weins followed his instincts and became a custom combiner, a “sod buster” in Cheyenne County, Colorado, a high school teacher and basketball coach whose team won a Nebraska state championship, a pioneer in the anhydrous ammonia business, a leader in local cable-television advertising, a broadcaster, a land developer, a manufacturer of modular housing and an insurance businessman.

In 1963, Weins sold his anhydrous ammonia business for enough money to buy his first bank in Kimball, Nebraska — it became First State Bank of Nebraska and gave his two sons, Tim and Tom, their first taste of business.

“We tell the story that we were bank tellers at an early enough age that we had to stand on a box to do the transactions across the teller counter,” joked Tim, the son who today is president of Firstate Bank of Colorado.

Firstate was started in 1993 when father and son purchased the $23 million Citywide Bank in Northglenn.

(The Weins distinguish their Colorado banks from their Nebraska banks by spelling. In Colorado, it’s “Firstate; in Nebraska, “First State.”)

Thereafter, the Weins began opening branches in Colorado in quick order: Thornton in March 1995, Cherry Creek in November 1995 and Westminster in October 1996. All were “ground-up operations,” meaning they opened with zero assets and liabilities.

In February 1997, Firstate marched into Northern Colorado with the purchase of First Northern Savings Bank’s main operation in Greeley, a branch in Boulder and a loan production office in Fort Collins. Firstate had already made tracks in the Greeley market a year earlier when it opened a loan-production office.

Tim Weins said it’s not uncommon for banks to open a small operation, such as a loan production office, as a stepping-stone to opening a larger, full service operation.

On the other hand, he said, banks may only want to go “cherry-picking” — enter an active market while the pickings are good and close it down when they become slim.

Firstate still operates the Fort Collins loan-production office purchased from First Northern. But Weins would not say whether or when he will open a Firstate Bank in that city, although he admitted having “additional expansion plans for Northern Colorado.”

A Fort Collins bank could pose an interesting dilemma; another bank there goes by the name First State Bank of Fort Collins.

Firstate’s growth curve has climbed steeply since 1993, and Weins expects this year’s performance to be no different, especially considering last year’s acquisitions.

“We grew last year from 1995 nearly 65 percent in total assets, nearly 70 percent in deposits and 120 percent in loans. This did not include the Greeley and Boulder offices and barely included the Westminster office,” Weins said.

With Firstate’s $95 million in assets and First State’s $65 million, the Weinses control about $160 million in bank assets in Colorado and Nebraska.

Joel Weins started in Colorado banking in 1969 when he purchased Summit County Bank in Frisco, A few years later, he chartered Centennial State Bank in Lyons and Commerce Bank in Fort Collins. All were later sold.

Weins also chartered industrial banks in Eaton, Fort Collins, Wellington and Loveland, none of which exist today.

Today, Weins is not as active in the family banking business as he was in the past, although his positions as chairman of the board for both the Colorado and Nebraska banks keep him finely tuned to family banking interests.

Most of the time, however, he is injecting his enormous energy and enthusiasm into his 800-acre ranch south and east of Loveland, where he directs a sophisticated embryo transplant operation.

“We’re using registered American Red Poll females, who are very good mothers. We either buy or create on the ranch Angus embryos from matings of superior genetics, and then we transplant those eggs into other breeds of cattle so when we have babies, they are all Angus,” Weins explained.

Weins got into ranching in 1972 in Nebraska. He produced the national western champion in 1976 and 1977 in a bull named “Mr. Beef.” That bull also won national champion polled hereford honors in 1977.

“We are having Mr. Beef’s grandchildren now through this embryo transplant program 20 years later,” Weins said with as much pride as if Mr. Beef’s progenies numbered among his own grandchildren.

“We found a supply of semen from Mr. Beef’s son who was the reserve champion in 1981. We now have three full brothers and sisters from a mating of our No. 1 cow here.”

That No. 1 cow is “Miss Bryce,” who, Weins laughed, has never married despite her recurring role as a mother.

Weins is also an innkeeper, a business he entered in the early 1960’s. Today he has a string of First Interstate Inns that runs from Casper, Wyo., to Branson, Mo., and includes Colorado inns at Fountain, Silverthorn, Del Camino and Sterling.

His son, Tom, in spite of his early prowess as a bank teller, didn’t remain in banking. After earning a divinity degree from Yale University, he started Recycling Industries Inc., a successful, wide-ranging business based in Englewood which he runs as well as a 2,500-acre ranching business near Castle Rock where he raises cutting horses.

Joel Weins says he has always stayed busy because he doesn’t want to get bored. Tim Weins put it another way: “Dad is the ultimate entrepreneur.”

When it comes to standing tall among Colorado’s business leaders, the Weins family stands like a “Fourteener.”

Today, the family owns successful businesses that trek east and west of the Interstate 25 corridor from as far south as El Paso County to as far north as Larimer and Weld counties and include banking, ranching, innkeeping and recycling.

The Loveland family owns Northglenn-based Firstate Bank of Colorado, which recently expanded into the Northern Colorado market with the acquisition of First Northern Savings Bank of Greeley.

If you follow the Weins’ Colorado tracks backward in time, you’ll come to a small town in Oklahoma where,…

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