Community banks: Clearing a pathway to the American Dream

By Brandt Dufrene

About this time every year Americans embark on spring cleaning.

That includes clearing away dust bunnies from lamp shades and base boards, determining home improvement projects and, generally, and getting their financial affairs in order.

Enter community banks, a patchwork of locally owned and operated financial institutions located throughout small towns, suburbia and urban markets nationwide.

Through recessions and economic booms alike, community banks have funded farmers (90 percent of agricultural loans) and entrepreneurs (more than half of small business loans). And they’ve helped countless individuals build financial security and achieve their version of the American Dream, whether it’s buying a home, funding college or investing for their golden years.

As we celebrate Community Banking Month in April, I’m proud to count First National Bank USA among the more than 6,000 such institutions that have embarked on a 250-year tradition of relationship banking.

At community banks, loans aren’t driven by the amount of fees and income they will bring the bank, but by the specific needs of our customer base and what’s in their best interests.

I can hold my head high in the knowledge that we didn’t sacrifice our integrity or the hard-earned trust of our customers on the altar of Wall Street’s quest for boundless profits.

Local, community banking—the kind we provide at First National Bank USA—is built on something sturdier. It’s the foundation for a lifelong partnership, where the interests of all parties are valued.

Ours is a bond nurtured through a lifetime of service—whether volunteering at a school fundraiser or spearheading a revitalization of downtown Main Street.

Is there any wonder then that community banks channel most of their loans to their depositors’ neighborhoods helping to keep local communities vibrant and growing? Is it surprising that as residents of the River Parishes and tax-paying citizens and business owners, we support the local infrastructure, making it a better place for all who live, work or worship here?

As locally based financial providers serving the people we see at PTA meetings and Little League baseball games, community bankers are accountable to our customers. It’s fundamental to our business structure and the key to our longevity. After all, more than 2,500 community banks have been in business for more than 100 years!

As we recognize April as Community Banking Month I want to thank our existing customers for their patronage and urge those who we hope to count as future customers to consider the benefits of banking locally:

• Personal service—66 percent of Americans want a more personal relationship with their financial institution

• Hometown support—$68 out of every $100 spent at locally owned businesses stays in the community.

• Trusted advisor—Community banks are the lender of choice for small businesses, above large banks, credit unions and nonbank lenders.

• Local credit decisions—Community banks consider character, family history and discretionary spending when making loan decisions.

Stop by First National Bank USA or any local community bank today to discuss your financial situation and learn how a community bank can help you realize your financial dreams—and contribute to a more vibrant and sustainable economy in your community.

Visit www.banklocally.org to find a community bank near you. First National Bank USA has offices in Boutte and Laplace serving the River Parishes.

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