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First State Bank in Mercer, N.D., circa 1930. Submitted photo.

Rural banking and you: 6 reasons to keep it local

Small town and community banks are fabulous!

In these days of bank consolidations, many of our neighborhood and small town banks are going away — disappearing quickly into the world of anonymous, faceless, and dispassionate corporate-ness.

We all know we can bank online, but it's so impersonal. We need that personal relationship with our bankers — it's important for so many reasons.

For one, our local bankers are anything but anonymous, faceless entities. These folks serve on committees and boards, volunteer in the community and so much more.

Secondly, most local lenders will tell you that they have served multiple generations of the same families and plan to well into the future. They know us. And our folks. And our grandparents, uncles, cousins, kids and dogs.

And we know them. We know their kids, their golf scores, what they donated to the silent auction and their favorite tractor color.

Which brings us to reason No. 3: We know that our local bankers know a business on Main Street is a good business, and that an empty building has no value. We know that, for the health of the community, they will do their best to help us become entrepreneurs, farmers and business owners, or to pursue other dreams.

Fourth, our local banks understand that approving that loan for the café is still a win, even if the building isn't worth the cost of equipment as collateral. They also understand that it will take longer to pay off that same equipment in a small town because the customer base is much smaller. But they will still do their best to give the loan.

Fifth, we know we can call our banker any time or chat with him at the grocery store. We rarely need appointments and often share a table with them. We also love that — so long as we've kept our noses clean — when we get in a pinch, we can usually call the bank and the money will be there. No questions.

Reason No. 6: At the same time we also know our banker will hold us accountable. And that he won't pull any punches. If he thinks we're headed for trouble, he'll tell us. Flat out, with no beating around the bush.

Since the beginning, rural and small town bankers have stood right beside us, through the good times and bad. Most smaller banks or local branches will tell you that they've had the same families for multiple generations. Now, I am sure that's true of the giant megabanks, too — but we still believe the bulk of those big bank customers do not actually know their banker, and their bankers don't know them.

If you don't know each other, how can you build the kind of relationship that makes things happen? You can't.

Don't be an account number on a ledger sheet. Be a face with a name. Work with a local banker who has your — and your community's — best interests at heart.

Editor's note: Learn more about Tait and Kate by visiting their blog at taitandkate.com.

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