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First International Bank & Trust, a company that started 106 years ago and is headquartered in Watford City, broke ground Wednesday for a six-story building, its largest bank, in Bismarck.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem were among the dignitaries attending the ceremony.

The $40 million structure is set to open in fall 2017 and will be located across from the North Dakota Heritage Center near the intersection of State Street and Divide Avenue.

The full-service bank will occupy the first three floors of the building, and there will be a restaurant on the main floor and a rooftop patio for events. A three-story parking garage will be built outside the facility.

The restaurant will either be a steakhouse or brew house, which has yet to be decided, said Peter Stenehjem, chief retail banking officer.

“We’ve always eyeballed Bismarck,” said Peter Stenehjem, fourth generation banker and cousin to Wayne Stenehjem. “A lot of our customers have been asking us to be in this city.”

Peter Stenehjem said the company has been trying to buy a couple of banks in town and merge them into the First International name.

“They never seemed to want to sell, I guess,” he said. “So finally we said we’d come in on our own.”

First International Bank & Trust has 26 banks in Minnesota, Arizona and North Dakota, including five locations in Fargo.

The newest bank in Bismarck will be by far the largest facility, Peter Stenehjem said.

“We’re kind of across the whole state of North Dakota; it’s funny that we kept always skipping over Bismarck," Peter Stenehjem said.

"It'll be a landmark building for all of our locations, frankly," he said.

Last year, First International Bank & Trust opened a temporary Bismarck branch at 1533 N. 12th St. while waiting for a permanent location. It has 24 employees, said David Mason, president of the Bismarck branch.

“We wouldn't build this building if we weren’t confident in the city of Bismarck, and we’re confident that we think that we can come in and be an asset to the community,” Peter Stenehjem said, adding the company has already made donations to local charities and hockey rinks.

“We want to make sure that the community is proud to have us here, too,” he said.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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