Community banks in four corners of the country

There are community banks in every corner of the country—it’s one of the hallmarks of this industry. While each is unique, what unites them is their dedication to their customers and communities. We spoke with four banks near the four cardinal points of the U.S. to learn more about them and their communities.

By Judith Sears


North

KodaBank



Drayton River

Way up north, sugar beet crops rule. North Dakota is second only to Minnesota in sugar beet production, and KodaBank in Drayton, N.D., sits smack in the middle of sugar beet country. “Agriculture is our bread and butter,” says Jered Kemnitz, market president of the community bank’s Walhalla, Neche, Pembina and Hamilton branches.

Kemnitz, like many of KodaBank’s staff, comes from a farming background and delights in the rural life. “That’s the part of my job I love,” he says. “Sometimes I drive around just to see how things are going. We’ll jump in the pickup and go look at their crops. It keeps the relationship open, and farmers don’t have to come into the office. They take pride in showing off their farms.”

The $315 million-asset community bank’s loan portfolio reflects its agricultural base: real estate loans, term loans for machinery and operating loans. KodaBank also finances sugar beet co-op stocks. “Shares move all the time, like the stock market,” Kemnitz says. “The twist is that a majority of the shareholders raise the crops.”

The bank’s Pembina branch is located just one mile from the Canadian border. When pandemic restrictions aren’t in force, many of its Canadian customers cross the border to shop, use parcel services or do business in Grand Forks or Fargo, N.D.

Did you know?

In the Sioux language, koda means “friend.”


South

Centennial Bank



Centennial Bank employees and customers grilled at the Original Marathon Seafood Festival this past March prior to shutdown orders.

Go 2,000 miles southeast of North Dakota and you’re in a different world. Just south of Miami, you pick up Highway 1 and drive 100 miles on mostly two-lane highways from Key Largo, through Islamorada, Marathon, Layton, Big Pine Key, and on down to Key West, Fla.

Each Key has its own “vibe,” according to Stephanie Scuderi, Monroe County market president for $15 billion-asset Centennial Bank, which is headquartered in Conway, Ark. but also has locations in Alabama and Florida, including eight in the Keys. “Marathon couldn’t be any more different from Islamorada, which is different from Key Largo, which is different from Key West,” she adds.

The hospitality and fishing industries dominate the area’s commerce. Most of the businesses are small. “We have more of a mom-and-pop feel versus the conglomerate,” says David Druey, the community bank’s South Florida regional president.

In pre-pandemic years, Centennial Bank rolled out “hospitality wagons” to grill for community events. “We go to the schools and grill for the end of school or the start of school,” Scuderi says. “We grill for Habitat for Humanity home dedications, the Layton canoe races and other events like grand openings, ribbon cuttings and fundraisers.”

The grill wagon was especially welcome in 2017 when Hurricane Irma made landfall in Monroe County as a Category 4 hurricane. “It was devastating,” Scuderi says.

In the years since the storm, the bank has collaborated with a retail customer to grill free Hurricane Irma memorial hamburgers and hot dogs in front of his store. It provides locals with a hot meal and a morale boost. “We rally around our communities to make them stronger and more resilient in spirit,” Scuderi says. “It makes banking much more than a transactional relationship.”

Did you know?

Centennial Bank has eight branches in the Florida Keys, which is made up of 800-plus keys stretching more than 180 miles.


East

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust


Bar Harbor Bank & Trust partners closely with Maine’s lobster and shellfish industries.

Go northeast 1,800 miles and Mount Desert Island presents a very different view of the Atlantic Ocean. Located along Maine’s scenic Frenchman’s Bay, the island’s economy is driven by tourism and the region’s famous lobster and shellfish industries.

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust in Bar Harbor, Maine, on Mount Desert Island, has developed close ties with the local fishing industry. That can be complex, as both scallops and lobster fishing are highly regulated and are seasonal industries that have cyclical needs according to their cash flows.

“They have massive outlays for equipment and bait at the start of the season, start to break even as the season goes on, and at the end, they have excess cash,” says Joseph Schmitt, chief marketing officer for the $3.9 billion-asset community bank. “Our team does a really good job of partnering with them and helping them manage their cash flow.”

Fishing is statistically one of the most dangerous occupations. Recently, Maureen Lord, branch manager of the bank’s Lubec, Maine, office, supported the town’s efforts to get Bar Harbor Bank & Trust’s help in securing a $19.6 million grant to build a safe harbor. The town, which sits on the border between the U.S. and Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, needed to show that maintenance funds had been secured in order to win a federal grant.

Lord showed senior management how much the safe harbor would mean to the community, and the bank agreed to donate $25,000 toward maintenance funds. “This will give fishermen a safe place to launch boats or bring the catch in,” Lord says. “I understand also there will be some slips available for seasonal visitors, which will add another attraction for the community.”

Did you know?

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust has a concentration of branches along the Maine coast, which boasts more than 4,600 islands.


West

Timberland Bank



The Pacific Ocean and Grays Harbor are visible from the hills that nestle Hoquiam, Wash., a town whose name comes from a Native American word for “hungry for wood.” The name is apt given that the logging industry remains a significant driver of the local economy, which is served by $1.5 billion-asset Timberland Bank.

About 40% of Timberland’s real estate loan portfolio comprises commercial real estate loans. The community bank, which was originally chartered as a building and loan association, also actively originates one- to four-family residential loans.

Timberland Bank has expanded to six counties, including the more urban Olympia, Wash., and areas south of Seattle, both of which serve many military and government-related employers. But in Hoquiam’s rural market, the community bank primarily serves residential and commercial real estate clients. It works with sawmill employees and companies that build roads for logging companies. The bank also originated Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in communities largely underserved by national lenders.

“We have some unique things that you don’t see in more urbanized markets,” says president and CEO Michael Sand.

In 2015, Timberland Bank celebrated its 100-year anniversary with a program to complete 100 good deeds in the community. Employees were given 40 hours of time off during the year to work with local nonprofits, such as food and school-supply drives, fundraising for community service organizations, serving meals and promoting the arts. At the end of the year, the community bank’s staff actually tallied 282 good deeds. “We were both humbled and honored to focus on serving others during our centennial year,” Sand says.

Did you know?

Grays Harbor, where Timberland Bank’s Ocean Shores, Wash., branch sits, was once the largest lumber shipyard in the world.


Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.

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