Community Spirit: 1st State Bank’s RUBY Awards

1st State Bank president and CEO Rick Goedert stands with (from left) WTA Architects associate architect Erin Andrus, Jenifer Acosta Development real estate developer Jenifer Acosta and 1st State Bank senior vice president Margo Winieckie. Photo: Gary Bublitz

How 1st State Bank is elevating local professionals and building brand recognition.

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

In 2005, the 1-year-old 1st State Bank in Saginaw, Mich., began offering the RUBY (Recognizing the Upward, Bright, and Young) Award. The reason? Partly, so the community would start to think of the de novo as the go-to bank for businesses in central Michigan.

Now in its 14th year, the distinction for outstanding young professionals has become one of the most highly sought-after awards in the area.

Bank president and CEO Rick Goedert was inspired to create the award after working in Detroit and witnessing the great success of Crain’s Detroit Business’s 40 under Forty award program, says Margo Winieckie, senior vice president of 1st State Bank, which now has $255 million in assets.

“A lot of young people were leaving our area, thinking there was nothing here for them, but Rick knew there’s so much more here than people might realize,” Winieckie says. “So he said, ‘Let’s highlight successful young professionals to show young people that there are plenty of reasons to stay.’”

Prime market

Indeed, the Great Lakes Bay area is home to major employers like the Dow Chemical Company, a Fortune 500 company; a number of colleges and universities; and a growing medical industry.

RUBY Award recipients come from a wide swath of industries, including health care, education and manufacturing, as well as corporate, nonprofit and entrepreneurial ventures. The key factor is professional excellence.

“We’re looking for someone who has excelled in their industry,” Winieckie says. “It could be an entrepreneur who overcame great odds to start a sporting goods store and now it’s a great success, or a scientist at Dow doing a fantastic job getting patents under his name.”

Each year, RUBY Award recipients are recognized at a celebration dinner and are also featured in the Great Lakes Bay Business magazine, one of the award sponsors.

Quick stat

100

Approximate number of RUBY Award nominations submitted each year

Among this year’s 10 recipients is Panchanan Maiti, a senior research scientist at the Field Neurosciences Institute, Ascension-St. Mary’s of Michigan in Saginaw. Maiti wrote in his award application that his proudest professional accomplishments include “the positive impacts of my research publications on therapeutic approaches for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and glioblastoma for the global neuroscience community, especially for potential clinical applications.”

Another 2018 RUBY Award recipient is Jenifer Acosta, CEO of Jenifer Acosta Development in Bay City, Mich. Acosta redeveloped downtown Bay City’s 127-year-old Crapo Building into The Legacy apartment building, with retail stores and a restaurant on the first floor. In less than three years, Acosta has managed roughly $25 million in community revitalization projects.

A third winner is Erin Andrus, an associate at Wigen Tincknell Associates Architects in Saginaw, who in 2017 launched [Re]Design Saginaw, an “externship” that introduces local high school and college students to the field of architecture.

“The program challenged students to consider the present status of downtown Saginaw and implored them to envision what it could be in years to come,” Andrus wrote in her award application.

Building name recognition

1st State Bank also created the RUBY Award program so that the area communities could become familiar with the startup, Winieckie says.

“We were only a year-old de novo when we started doing this award, and we needed our name to be recognized,” she says. “We also wanted to show that we’re a business-oriented bank, and the awards were a good way to earn the appreciation of local companies.”

The award program has become so popular that the community bank receives nearly 100 nominations each year, and employers publicly tout when their workers receive awards, Winieckie says.

“This has become a highly sought-after award. Some companies, like Dow, now even have nominating committees each year.”
—Margo Winieckie, 1st State Bank

“This has become a highly sought-after award,” she says. “Some companies, like Dow, now even have nominating committees each year. In fact, Saginaw Valley State University chooses their nominees so methodically, because, they tell us, ‘We want our people to have this award.’”

The award program has certainly helped 1st State Bank burnish its reputation as a bank for businesses. The RUBY Awards have also earned the appreciation of employers, who say the program has been a great way to show young people why they should stay in the area, Winieckie says.

“The recipients also get a great deal of satisfaction. One cried when she made her acceptance speech,” she says. “That has just made us feel wonderful that we’re giving the recognition that these people deserve.”


Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a writer in California.

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