[caption id="attachment_51569" align="alignright" width="397" caption="Members of the Bank of Marin advisory boards"][/caption]

NOVATO – With the formation of a dedicated advisory board for the city of Sonoma -- and a Napa board in the works -- Bank of Marin is furthering its efforts to grow in its newest North Bay markets.

Formed from the Sonoma community, the new eight-member group will offer advice on how to serve that market effectively and join the other four advisory groups offering regional feedback for the bank.

“We really do look at Sonoma County as being an area of growth for us,” said Bank of Marin President and CEO Russell Colombo, also noting opportunities in Napa. “Sonoma County – it’s obviously slower coming out of the recession than Marin, but I believe it’s a great market for us, and I believe there are many opportunities across the board.”

The Novato-based bank opened a branch in Sonoma, a commercial banking office in Santa Rosa and acquired Napa’s former two-branch Charter Oak Bank through assistance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last year, significantly increasing its footprint in the two counties.

Now, Mr. Colombo said, Bank of Marin will focus on growing relationships in those markets.

Bank of Marin has expanded its efforts in wine lending in the past year, with 15 commercial bankers currently focused on the industry. Key members include David Brown, who came from North Valley Bank and serves the Santa Rosa branch, and 35-year Napa Valley banking veteran Kathi Metro, who leads commercial banking there after the February 2011 acquisition of Charter Oak.

Sonoma’s branch will focus more on personal banking in addition to commercial lending, with an approach that will evolve with the assistance of feedback from the advisory group, Mr. Colombo said.

 “We’re getting those types of people that really have a pulse on the community,” Mr. Colombo said. “Sonoma is not Marin – it’s different.”

Members of the Sonoma advisory group include Sonoma Mayor Pro Tem Ken Brown and retired Bank of Marin President and CEO, Robert Griswold, along with Highway 12 Vineyard and Winery’s Paul Giusto and a number of business leaders.

Alongside efforts in Sonoma, Mr. Colombo said that the commercial lending office in Santa Rosa has formed a number of relationships with the middle-market companies it was created to serve. The bank president noted that Santa Rosa has an economy that leans more towards light industrial than many other markets regional markets, with current relationships forming in manufacturing, distribution and construction.

Mr. Colombo said that he expected growth in wine industry clients to be more robust in Sonoma County than in Napa County, due to the prevalence of smaller labels and related industries.

The bank now has a total of five branches in Sonoma County, for a total of 17 offices across Marin, Sonoma, Napa and San Francisco Counties. The bank reported total loans exceeding $1 billion at the end of 2011.

In addition to the Sonoma advisory group, Bank of Marin maintains advisory boards in Petaluma and Northern, Central and Southern Marin.