Small business creation is about as American as apple pie and is essential to our nation’s economy. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and small businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
But did you know that community banks like Bank of the West in Grapevine, Texas, are the primary economic engines behind small businesses on Main Street—funding more than half of all small-business loans?
“I was able to give my hairstylist, Kim, a loan to acquire a salon when the owner died. She was a young lady, she had good credit, but didn’t have a lot of collateral,” Cynthia Blankenship said during testimony before the House Small Business Committee. In total, nine stylists were employed because of that loan, noted Blankenship who serves as vice chairman, chief financial officer and corporate president at Bank of the West.
“It’s our job to put that customer in the right finance tool to get them their credit availability. Our reputation and integrity is riding on this as well.”
This April, in recognition of Community Banking month and the symbiotic relationship community banks have with their customers, we’re highlighting examples of community banks that are making their communities better places to live and work.
Community banks do much more than provide capital, however. They fill key roles as trusted financial advisors, mentors and philanthropists.
Mike Kochenour, chairman and CEO of York Traditions Bank in York, Pa., has built a thriving career and bank. Like many community bankers, Kochenour is eager to pass on what he’s learned to up-and-coming business owners.
“Word has gotten around that you can call him and he’ll answer! He wants to serve as a resource to help everyone reach their potential,” Suzanne Becker, marketing director at the bank shared with IB magazine.
Community banks are known for courting customers and now Allied First Bank in Oswego, Ill., has taken that role literally—building a basketball court into its headquarters for sports, fundraisers and community activities.
“Many, many times I’m out in the community talking about the bank or trying to attract new customers and inevitably what I hear is, ‘Oh, you’re the bank with the basketball court. I’ve got to come see that,’” said Allied First president and CEO Kenneth Bertrand.
When Citizens Bank of Edmond, Okla., is not helping local small businesses and consumers across its community, the bank is making a splash in its neighborhood with Heard on Hurd. With President and CEO Jill Castilla leading the charge, the bank’s Heard on Hurd street festival is bringing together families, friends and small businesses every third Saturday from March through October.
“With $4 million in local economic impact, our little bank community’s appreciation event is making a big impact in the Oklahoma City metro area,” Castilla told the Edmond Sun.
The name Dons Net Café may sound like a coffee shop, but Santa Barbara Senior High students aren’t baristas-in-training. They’re studying a range of business topics from financial literacy to profit analysis to order management. Montecito Bank & Trust in Santa Barbara, Calif., became involved after one of the bank’s financial advisors, Chris Morales, began teaching a class on ethics issues related to economics.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw one of my ‘gang’ kids walk up to Mr. Morales and shake his hands after a class,” wrote Lee Knodel, a teacher who runs the school program. “That kid is now going to college, wears, completely different clothes. Together, Montecito Bank & Trust and the Dons Net Café have changed many lives.”
There are countless examples of the powerful impact community banks have on their consumer and small business customers, but community banks are so much more than lenders and business partners. They are a vital part of their neighborhoods. Community bankers coach youth sports, sponsor workshops, lead civic organizations, and spend hours offering their time and talents to help their communities thrive.
For more examples of community banks and bankers making a difference across the nation during ICBA Community Banking Month and beyond, follow #BankLocally hashtag on Twitter. To find your local community bank, visit ICBA’s Community Bank Locator at www.banklocally.org.