LEWISTON — Four years ago, amid uncertainty that TD Bank might pull up stakes after buying Commerce Bank, Larry Wold told an audience at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting that TD would maintain operations centers in Lewiston and New Jersey.
The bank wanted to stay.
On Thursday, he’ll tell that same crowd it’s staying longer.
TD Bank has extended its lease in the Bates Mill complex to 2025, negotiating that agreement two years ahead of schedule, keeping 800 people working downtown.
The lease was signed in late December. Word has slowly gotten out.
“No one’s been disappointed to find out we’re staying — some of our competitors, perhaps, who wanted to tell everybody our commitment to Maine would wane over time,” said Wold, TD’s Maine market president. “I’m just excited that it’s part of an ongoing success story. I think Maine in general, and Lewiston-Auburn in particular, we can all stand to have more success stories in our lives.”
TD has been in the Bates Mill since 1998, when it was Peoples Savings Bank. Lincoln Jeffers, economic and community development director for the city of Lewiston, said the bank was a pioneer tenant of prime office space and set an important tone.
“They opened eyes and helped define what space at the mill could become,” Jeffers said.
Its continued presence will help provide a foundation for future growth, he said. The historic mill complex is part of the city’s evolving Riverfront Island Master Plan.
TD Bank has 3,090 employees in Maine, 1,650 of them in Androscoggin County. Employees in the mill complex work in back-office operations: technology, risk and audit. Their future was uncertain after TD Banknorth Financial Group bought New Jersey-based Commerce Bank in 2007 and announced plans to merge operations. TD ultimately kept its primary operation centers here and in New Jersey and added a third in Greenville, S.C.
The bank is among the top 10 largest in the U.S. and added 1 million new checking accounts in 2012, Wold said.
TD is also the largest retail bank in Maine, by deposits.
“The workforce for us (in Lewiston) has just been fabulous,” Wold said. “We’ve got a combination of long-term employees and a good, steady supply of capable young talent coming in.”
The previous lease between the bank and Twin Cities LLC for 169,000 square feet in mill No. 3 was set to expire in 2015. It was a business decision, with the offer of favorable rates in exchange for a new, long-term commitment, that started the conversation now, Wold said.
Before signing, the company considered options elsewhere.
“The competition is fierce; there are both local and state governments that are eager for job growth in their communities and there are all sorts of programs out there that exist,” Wold said. “But when you factor everything in, and not least of which is we tend to be a very loyal organization, when we have good relationships with clients or vendors, our first choice is to continue those long-term relationships. In spite of stiff competition, the combination of the people and the space and the terms of the lease all came together to make it make sense for us to stay there.”
The new lease expires in 2025 and includes two five-year options to renew. TD plans “significant upgrades” including new drywall, paint, flooring and natural lighting.
The bank also currently leases space in mill No. 7.