Bank president brings upbeat outlook to chamber role

Phil Castle, The Business Times

CUTLINE: Vance Wagner, regional president of ANB Bank, also serves as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Wagner says the chamber fulfills three Cs as a catalyst for business and economic growth, convener of leaders and influencers and champion for a strong and healthy community. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Vance Wagner never tires of working in banking because of what the industry makes possible for customers, whether that’s starting a business, buying a home or sending children to college.

“Every day is an opportunity to change somebody’s life for the better,” says Wagner, regional president of ANB Bank in Grand Junction.

Wagner brings a similar perspective to another role as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. The chamber has an opportunity to fulfill three Cs, Wagner says, as a catalyst for business and economic growth, convener of leaders and influences and champion for a strong and healthy community. In other words, changes lives for the better.

Given chamber efforts as well as an improving economy and the growing attraction of the Grand Valley as a place to live and do business, Wagner says he’s optimistic about the year ahead. “I’m really quite bullish on what’s going on.”

Wagner started his year-long term as chamber chairman at the beginning of the year, succeeding outgoing chairman Chris Thomas.

Wagner views his role as chairman as serving as a voice for the board and working with chamber staff to help carry out the initiatives of the organization.

Wagner brings to that role his experiences as a bank executive — nearly 30  years with ANB Bank and the last 10 years as regional president in Grand Junction. Wagner oversees the operations of a total of five branch offices in Grand Junction and Telluride and also serves on the bank board of directors.

A member of the Sturm Financial Group headquartered in Denver, ANB Bank operates a total of more than 30 locations in Colorado, Wyoming and the Kansas City metro area.

Wagner joined what was at that time Mesa National Bank in 1993 to oversee operations in Glenwood Springs as well as Aspen, Carbondale and Rifle. He later worked as a senior credit officer in the commercial banking division and a regional president in Northern Colorado.

Wagner previously worked for Colorado National Bank in Denver and for a bank mortgage operation.

Wagner moved with his family to Colorado in 1969 and attended what’s now  Adams State University in Alamosa, where he earned a business degree and also competed as a cross-country runner.

While the Grand Valley suffered in the aftermath of a recession, the economy since has rebounded, Wagner says. “The economy is strong right now and there’s a lot of optimism.”

For banks, deposits and lending activity have increased even as delinquency rates on loans have decreased to some of their lowest levels ever, he says.

The economy is more diversified than ever before, Wagner says, which it makes it less susceptible to downturns in one sector.

While there’s uncertainty associated with a presidential election year as well as trade and foreign relations, Wagner says he expects the economy to remain strong.

Moreover, the Grand Valley has become an increasingly attractive place in which to live and do business because of its lifestyle, services and comparatively lower cost of living. “We are on lots of people’s radar right now,” he says.

Wagner also credited Grand Valley government entities and organizations for their leadership and collaboration. That includes the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber takes a proactive role in promoting economic growth, assisting businesses and advocating on behalf of the business community, he says. “This is a great chamber. It makes a difference.”

If anything, it’s a matter of communicating more clearly the success the chamber achieves in fulfilling the three Cs, Wagner says. The business plan for 2020 includes goals related to those three Cs as well as a communications initiative.

The business plan also includes:

Forming an employer task force to address health care costs that lead to higher insurance premiums.

Reactivating a regulatory oversight subcommittee of the governmental affairs committee to monitor rulemaking processes in Colorado.

Make it easier for businesses to comment on proposed rules and legislation.

Promoting work force development efforts, including more workplace experiences for students and sector partnerships for career development.

Providing easier and greater access to economic information.

Wagner says he never feels like he has to work at a job because of the opportunities the banking industry affords to help people. He says he feels the same way about his service on local boards because of the opportunities those organizations afford to help people.

That includes the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Wagner says. “The chamber is there to make things happen.”