Field Notes: Noah Wilcox

We must make Washington listen.

By Noah Wilcox

Grassroots advocacy is vital for community banks to create success in Washington. And really, grassroots is what we do. Community banks around this nation have been formed for many reasons, but central to that is the desire to come together for a common purpose. ICBA and state affiliates do an amazing job launching the campaigns that are so important for regulatory relief and unfair competition, just to name a couple. But it is we, the community bankers, who are then responsible for getting in the trenches and bringing the victory home.

In our two charters, Grand Rapids State Bank and Minnesota Lakes Bank, we have developed a militant grassroots culture when it comes to making certain our members hear our collective voice. The most recent example of this came with Senate bill 2155 pending a vote. Our staff mobilized and made daily calls and sent daily emails to our state senators. One senator actually phoned me the evening prior to the vote to share with me how she would be casting her vote so I was not surprised. Today, our staff remains engaged in making our voice heard in the House, where the bill sits, waiting to be voted on.

I am calling all community bankers to action. Engage your staff, train them so they know what to expect and so they don’t fear calling or emailing a member’s office. And make our voice heard in a way Washington will never forget. It cannot be just officers or managers making these calls. It will take the entire team, from the teller line to the president’s office. If nearly 6,000 community banks can rally their entire workforce to make our national voice heard on important issues that affect our banks, communities and customers, we will carry the day, every day.

We cannot sit back and let others carry our water. We all must do our part to make our position known without question. And, for those members who want to build their reputations on the back of community banking’s great reputation, yet not stand with us when it is time to vote, we must hold those members accountable. With our sterling reputation in Washington, and with our clear message and strong voice, we will achieve meaningful relief for our industry. Please join your voice and those of your staff with the thousands of us already preaching our industry’s gospel in Washington. Be heard. Be unwavering. Be proud.

Noah Wilcox is president, CEO and chairman of Grand Rapids State Bank in Grand Rapids, Minn., and ICBA vice chairman.