Umpqua Holdings (UMPQ) in Portland, Ore., is continuing to expand across California.

The $11.5 billion-asset company said Monday that it plans to open a center in Templeton, Calif., in January to make loans to agricultural customers. The company hired Mark Pearce, a former regional vice president for the agribusiness region of Farm Credit West, to run the office.

Pearce "is an industry leader in agricultural finance, with deep knowledge of both the industry and the Central Coast, which is one of the country's most important agricultural regions," Cort O'Haver, Umpqua's executive vice president for commercial banking, said in a press release. Pearce "adds invaluable expertise to Umpqua's commercial lending teams and will play a key role as we continue our expansion into California."

Umpqua's agricultural center will provide operating, equipment and real estate loans for farmers, ranchers and other local businesses, according to the company.

The center will mark another milestone for Umpqua in California. In October, the company said it would open a flagship store in San Francisco's financial district next spring. Umpqua said in September that it would open its first retail branch in San Jose early next year.

In August, Umpqua announced it would buy Circle Bancorp in Novato, Calif. for $25 million. The deal for the $322 million-asset Circle would add six branches north of San Francisco to Umpqua's 74 branches in the California, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That deal is expected to close this year.

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