Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Panhandle State Bank Outlines Plan to Stimulate Local Economy

On March 11th several leaders of the Sandpoint community attended a special town hall meeting. The gathering of local business leaders, community activists, media representatives and non-profit board members was organized by Intermountain Community Bancorp (ICB) CEO Curt Hecker. His message was one of hope; and the goal of the meeting was to enlist the help of the community in indentifying what is truly important to the Sandpoint area leaders beyond just making a profit – or as Hecker said “identify what is relevant.” Hecker’s hope is the information he gathers will assist ICB in helping to bring failing businesses back to their feet and strengthen the financial support of the non-profit organizations who do much to support vital programs in the community.

In addressing the group, Hecker acknowledged that his job like many others in the banking industry has been a little stressful lately.
“Being a bank CEO used to be a pretty cool job,” joked Hecker. “Within the last four months things have happened within our community that have affected all of our lives significantly. We have to decide how we proactively address the issues we are faced with. ”

But despite the challenges the banking industry faces - one of the largest of which is trying to regain the respect for banking institutions - Hecker still thinks his job is pretty cool. He says he is excited about bringing economic growth back into the communities where Intermountain Community Bancorp conducts business.
Hecker told the crowd that there are over 8000 financial institutions in this country, 19 of which control two-thirds of the total deposit base of the country. “That is a lot of power,” said Hecker. “But how that power is used is critically important.”

When the economy started showing signs of a struggle in large metropolitan areas, Hecker said he was hopeful that the economic downturns would not affect Idaho. “But I was wrong,” he said.

While Hecker realizes that the national economy may take a while to turn around, he along with all of his employees in the various communities in which ICB does business, will do what they can to help stimulate the local economies.

In his talk, Hecker said that when there is stress without control, the result is fear. “Stress is good,” said Hecker, “because it forces us to think outside the box and be creative. People can function if they have control and input into the outcome.”

Hecker said that the five stages of grief as identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross can also be applied to the current state of the economy. Those stages are denial; anger - finding people to blame such as your broker or other financial advisors; bargaining; depression and acceptance.

“We need to get to number five (acceptance) as a community and country and then things will happen positively,” said Hecker.

He said the country has become caught up in rules and regulations and has lost a lot of basic common sense- something leaders in the community must exert more of.

“I am passionate about building a company based on human values,” said Hecker.
The tool through which Hecker and his colleagues will accomplish their goal of helping the local economy is through ICB’s new program, Powered by Community.

“We are engaging local leadership to create community based economic prosperity,” said Hecker who stated that by staying in close contact with people, particularly those in leadership roles, he and his employees will have a good handle on what the economic needs are of the community. He was also quick to point out that the needs of each community differ greatly.

One of those working with Hecker on the Powered by Community program is Rick Youngblood, who serves as President of Community Partnership. Youngblood told the group that ICB is already doing things to give back to the communities. They have matching programs as well as local scholarship programs for area youth and a Community Star Program which recognizes local leaders and donates money to the local nonprofit of the winner’s choice.

Youngblood said Powered by Community will offer many opportunities to involve and to help local businesses. Some of these opportunities will include business seminars, investigating affordable housing needs and having a small business development center in each community.

“Economic stability is essential to a healthy community,” said Youngblood.
Paul Unger, Powered by Community’s Program Facilitator, is in charge of the technical side of the program. He will develop a website that will promote and manage the program. The online information will have interactive calendars, seminars, and information on how to develop a business. Unlike other websites, which are typically one way, Unger said this website will be interactive and will solicit feedback making communication much easier.

“Powered by Community is an enhancement to Intermountain Community Bancorp’s history of making our community better,” said Unger.

Panhandle Alliance for Education Board Member Stacy Temple called Powered by Community a win win situation. Phyllis Horvath, executive director for Kinderhaven, a non-profit home for abused and neglected children, agrees. “It’s great to see an organization say let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can do.”

Hecker told the group of local leaders that ICB will organize, prioritize and implement programs that will bring economic prosperity back to the Sandpoint community. He announced a deadline of April 15th as the time at which specific programs will be announced.

“We need to control our own destiny and move forward,” he said.

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