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Wells Fargo Breaks Ground on $100 Million Mortgage Expansion

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April 22 (Bloomberg) -- Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. mortgage originator, is expanding its home-lending headquarters in Iowa as the firm plans for growth even while the industry predicts a slowing market.

The bank started construction on a building that will increase capacity at its West Des Moines office complex by about 28 percent, or 265,000 square feet, the San Francisco-based company said in an April 19 statement. The project will cost $100 million, Alfredo Padilla, a bank spokesman, said in an e-mail. The edifice will house 1,800 workers and a parking garage also is planned.

The expansion will give the mortgage operations, led by Michael Heid, “room to relocate current team members to the facility from leased spaces and allow space for future growth,” according to the statement.

Wells Fargo, which originated almost 30 percent of all U.S. mortgages last year, is expanding regional operations and adding staff amid forecasts for slower home lending and signs its biggest competitors are pulling back. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in February that it will cut 13,000 to 15,000 jobs in its mortgage unit. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts a 16 percent decline in home lending this year to $1.48 trillion.

Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf, 59, is expanding mortgage operations elsewhere. In February, Wells Fargo was set to open a 111,349-square-foot office in Tempe, Arizona, with plans to hire 900 workers. The bank, which added 5,100 employees in the first quarter, also is increasing staff in Georgia and the Pacific Northwest, cementing its status as the U.S. lender with the most full-time employees, with 274,300 as of March 31.

Construction in West Des Moines, about 335 miles west of Chicago, is expected to be finished in two years, according to the statement. Wells Fargo employs more than 13,500 people in the Des Moines area.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dakin Campbell in San Francisco at dcampbell27@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net

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