Community Spirit: Investors Community Bank

With support from Investors Community Bank and others, the Leadership Manitowoc County program helps up-and-coming leaders embed themselves in their community.

By William Atkinson

Among a community bank’s differentiators is its deep knowledge of the place and the people it serves. At $1.5 billion-asset Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc, Wis., Terrilynn Hastreiter is an agriculture credit analyst. But in 2017, with her employer’s support, she also became chairperson of Manitowoc Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Manitowoc County committee.

The Leadership Manitowoc County program was created in 1987 to build strong leaders and strong relationships within the community. It is designed to bring together emerging leaders from local businesses and other organizations and help them learn about the community from different perspectives.

Each year, employers nominate employees to participate in the nine-month program, which runs September through May. The committee selects between 20 and 25 participants each year. “We recruit members of our community who are leaders already, but who want to better themselves and learn more about the community,” Hastreiter says.

The program encourages participants to network with their peers and improve their leadership skills. It culminates with a graduation and certificates.

Participants meet one day each month to visit various area businesses and organizations. “The program gives them the opportunity to see the inner workings of a lot of businesses and organizations that they may not have known about before,” Hastreiter says.

Each month has a theme: Agriculture, Education & Diversity, Environment & Health, Government, History & Heritage, Human Services, Local Economy, Public Safety and Team Building. “They travel through the community to focus on a specific subject during their tour,” Hastreiter explains. “For example, our first topic each year, which takes place in September, is History & Heritage, so they will tour various businesses that are history-focused.”

Nonprofit help
During the year, participants also work in teams of five or six to develop and complete service projects for local nonprofits, in turn honing their team-building, collaboration and leadership skills. “The teams select a local nonprofit and come up with a project they want to do for that organization,” says Hastreiter. “This can be as diverse as a domestic violence organization or a zoological society.”

Participants are encouraged to be as creative with their projects as they wish. While they are not provided with any funds, they are allowed to engage in fundraising activities as part of their projects. “Then, during graduation, they showcase their projects, including what they accomplished and provided back to the community,” Hastreiter says.

The program’s success led to the Chamber’s Junior Leadership Manitowoc County program, which recruits 11th-graders from six area high schools. “Guidance counselors in the high schools encourage juniors whom they see as up-and-coming leaders to apply for the program,” says Hastreiter. Student applicants complete an interview process, and those selected also determine and complete a nonprofit service project with their peers.

Hastreiter’s program involvement began when she was a participant in 2015. She met many individuals she might not have met otherwise, especially people in different roles and sectors. After her own graduation, she joined the committee, helped with some of the planning and then became chair in 2017.

“I had grown up here but didn’t realize until I went through the program just how much I didn’t know about our community,” she says. “It gave me a much stronger appreciation for what Manitowoc County has to offer.”

Investors Community Bank is a staunch supporter of Hastreiter’s efforts and of the Manitowoc Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors and organizes Leadership Manitowoc County. “The bank is a strong advocate of the program, and they have encouraged me to stay involved and represent the community banking industry in the program,” she says. As chair, she finds that the most rewarding aspect is hearing the new graduates from both programs talk about what they now know about their community that they didn’t know before.

William Atkinson is a writer in Illinois.