Umpqua Bank continues to expand its real estate business in the Pacific Northwest with the addition of a new homebuilder finance group.

The group will provide residential regional homebuilders and developers in Oregon and Washington with construction and development loans, the bank, a unit of the $11.5 billion-asset Umpqua Holdings (UMPQ) in Portland, Ore., said Thursday.

Umpqua has hired Kelly Warter to oversee the homebuilder finance operations, including expansion of its products and portfolios. She has more than 30 years of homebuilder finance and commercial real estate lending experience. Warter will be based in Seattle and will report to John Swanson, head of Umpqua's commercial real estate division.

Lisa Woodruff, a senior assistant relationship manager, and Sheneil Kliewer, a senior loan administrator, will also join the company's homebuilder finance division, Umpqua said.

Umpqua has been growing its commercial real estate capabilities. In December, it announced that it had formed a new commercial real estate division and named Swanson as its head. Before that Umpqua had been making its commercial real estate loans through its commercial banking operations.

It has expanded in other ways, opening a center to make loans to agricultural customers and expanding its branch network. The agriculture loan center will provide operating, equipment and real estate loans for farmers, ranchers and other local businesses.

It has also announced plans to open a flagship branch in San Francisco's financial district next spring ( and its first retail branch in San Jose early next year. ( It is in the process of buying Circle Bancorp in Novato, Calif., for $25 million.

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