SONOMA COUNTY -- North Coast Bank will now be known as American River Bank, part of a broader strategic effort by the financial institution's  Sacramento-based owner to refocus its specialty in commercial lending and consolidate the brands under its umbrella.

The branding change marks the most recent milestone in a two-year strategic planning process for American River Bankshares (NASDAQ-GS: AMRB), one that company President and CEO David Taber said will help the $590 million-asset lender to target the commercial market in Northern California.

"It was crystal clear to the team -- in the future, being a specialist is the key to success," Mr. Taber said. "We want to be the business bank of Northern California."

All three of the company's bank brands will now share a name and newly developed logo with its Sacramento-area subsidiary, the five-branch American River Bank. The company operates three branches in Amador County, formerly known as Bank of Amador, and two North Coast Bank branches in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.

In addition, the company will release a proprietary financial analysis tool for businesses known as "REACH" Business Blueprint, a web-based service that Mr. Taber said will make it easy for clients to track financial ratios and enhance the bank's efforts to serve a dual role as a business lender and adviser.

"It's something that we've always done, but we've gotten smarter over the years, and now can do it better," he said.

The bank has spent the last 18 months training staff and has recruited new staff with backgrounds in financial services and accounting, he said.

"Regardless of who you talk to at our bank, you should be able to get some information and advising, or they can send you in the right direction," he said.

Administration has also shifted over the past year, with more centralized management over the bank's three markets and the transition of regional presidents to a market development role.

Mr. Taber said that the bank has seen its lending operations change through the recession. As cautious businesses hold onto more cash, credit lines are historically under-utilized, averaging at approximately 40 percent of limits.

Yet in that changed landscape, Mr. Taber said that the current economy has also presented opportunities, including construction lending for builders who are renovating foreclosed properties.

The bank is considering expansion the East Bay and elsewhere in California.

"Over time, we're going to be making sure we're filling out Northern California," he said.

Current clients of North Coast Bank and the company's other subsidiaries can continue to use debit cards, online accounts and payment methods without interruption.

American River Bankshares acquired North Coast Bank in 2000, maintaining the local brand since.