Patelco Credit Union will close its branch at Castle Commerce Center after more than 10 years at the former Air Force base, company officials said this week.
The closure was confirmed by Patelco’s vice president of marketing, Alison Aplet Jones, in an email to the Merced Sun-Star. Jones said the credit union’s call center there is moving to another location in the spring, but Patelco’s banking branch, inside the Atwater call center, is closing permanently.
Patelco officials said no employees are being laid off. They have all been offered positions within the company. Company officials have yet to notify Merced County’s economic development staff about the closure plans, but customers are receiving letters that the banking branch will close April 15.
One of the customers that received a letter was Jean Kirby, co-owner of Granny’s Pantry in Atwater. The longtime business owner said the closure caught her by surprise. The letter advised customers to use the Madera or Modesto locations for their banking needs, but that doesn’t work for Kirby.
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“I have to find a new bank because there’s no way I would drive to Madera or Modesto,” Kirby said. “I have a feeling this is happening because AT&T closed.”
AT&T was one of the largest employers at the Atwater base but closed its two call centers there in August. More than 400 employees lost their jobs.
Jones said Patelco’s Atwater branch was initially opened as a “mini-branch” to support the employees of AT&T. She said the closure of AT&T’s call centers was a major factor in Patelco’s decision to leave Castle.
“Our operation at Castle was to support the employees of our primary employer group, AT&T,” Jones said in the email. “When they closed their facility, traffic to our location dropped significantly and caused us to re-evaluate our branch strategy in the area.”
The closure of the Patelco Credit Union comes on the heels of several other business closures in Merced County. Carrows Restaurant in Merced closed last week, laying off about 25 people. The RadioShack stores in Los Banos and Atwater also will close, with about eight people expected to lose their jobs.
Patelco Credit Union has leased land at the 3009 Stratofortress Drive location since 2001. But the revenue loss to Merced County from the company’s departure is expected to be minimal, said Mark Hendrickson, director of community and economic development. Patelco Credit Union owns the building but pays the county $800 a month for the 1.3 acres of land.
Hendrickson said Patelco has long been rumored to be closing its operations at Castle to move closer to its customer base, so the news this week comes as no surprise.
“Our hope now is that they elect to stay within the county, which we understand from informal conversations in the past was a consideration being made,” Hendrickson said. “To the extent this is the direction they’re headed, we stand ready to assist them in every way possible.”
Jones confirmed Patelco Credit Union’s call center will be relocating to another site within Merced County, but could not disclose the exact location.
Patelco Credit Union is responsible for demolishing the building it occupies when it leaves Castle, Hendrickson said. “This will present us with an outstanding opportunity for us to develop the site with new construction, as is the case with multiple new construction projects taking place within a stone’s throw from this site,” he said.
Castle has 95 tenants, and revenue climbed 15.8 percent last year compared with 2013. At least a dozen leases are new or have been renewed in the past year, Hendrickson said, with more than 1 million square feet of total building space leased at Castle.