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Peoples Bank named Large Business of the Year by county chamber

Founded in Lynden in 1920

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BELLINGHAM, Washington - Peoples Bank, which was founded in nearby Lynden in 1920, was given the 2008 Large Business of the Year award at the recent award ceremonies of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce. Peoples Bank finished ahead of the local branches of Costco, Haggen and Wal-Mart.

In recent decades, Peoples Bank has branched out to Bellingham and beyond in Northwest Washington and now has nearly 30 locations, including some service counters in large food stores. Headed by P.J. Van Hemert as it first president, the institution was reorganized in 1938 when Dutch-American lawyer Irwin LeCocq Sr., also of Lynden, became involved as vice-president. Huguenot-descendent LeCocq, whose family settled in the USA in Pella, Iowa in 847, assumed the presidency in 1941. Current president Charles LeCocq took over from his father Irwin LeCocq Jr. in 1987.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Peoples Bank has grown to become the second largest of it kind in Whatcom County, which includes both Lynden and Bellingham. With $525 million in deposits in the county, Peoples Bank holds a 17.2 percent market share. As of September 30, 2008, Peoples had over one billion dollars in assets, total deposits of about $900 million and a loan portfolio of $912 million.

Cityís Dutch roots

Lynden, which is organized as a city and has a population of about 12,000, is widely known for its bank density. The community had its genesis in 1857 and largely depended on the lumber industry for its livelihood in the early decades. The city was founded in 1891 when Lynden was home to between 600 or 700 people, including a small number of Dutch families who migrated from Oak Harbor, a Dutch settlement on Whidbey Island. Lyndenís Dutch presence mushroomed after 1900, giving rise to a vibrant Reformed community and a Christian School system.

Alongside its Dutch identity, Lynden also promotes its agricultural roots, mainly dairy, and it is widely known for its Clydesdale horse teams. In addition, the city is the birthplace of Lynden Transport, a major player on the Alaska route. Today the company is known as LTI. The Windmill Heraldís ties with Lynden date from the early 1970s. Although located on the border of Lyndenís sister city, Langley City and neighbouring Langley Township, the newspaper services its U.S. customer base from Lynden, making Lynden the only Dutch American community tied to a Dutch language newspaper (the U.S. at one time was home to dozens of commercial Dutch-language publications, mostly published in Western Michigan and Iowa).