Despite the last eight months of uncertainty in dealing with all the changes brought about by COVID-19, Itasca Bank & Trust Co.'s "community first" philosophy has been a bright spot for many small businesses. The crisis has magnified the fact that community banks truly are there for the communities they serve.
In late March the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) put a spotlight on how Itasca Bank & Trust Co. truly showed up for their existing customers and other small businesses that were unable to obtain the loan from their bank. As a small business itself, Itasca Bank understands the needs of the small business owners that came to them for help and, in reality, became economic first responders.
Almost every business customer of the bank was eligible and by the end of the program in August, the bank had made 570 loans for a total of $86 million. To put this effort in perspective, the bank normally makes a little over 300 loans a year and 527 PPP loans were made by the end of May.
Every business that contacted Itasca Bank needed help understanding the process and the quickly changing rules.
"We had people in a panic wondering if they were going to lose the business they worked so hard to build," said John Hunt, senior vice president and chief loan officer. "Our loan officers had to become payroll experts overnight."
The entire loan department worked around the clock to get approval for the PPP loans, providing a lifeline to over 570 customers in record time.
"We recognized how important the PPP loans were to businesses and we did everything in our power to get them approved," said James R. Mensching, president. "The PPP loan kept thousands of employees working who may not have been able to do so if we weren't able to help them. For many of the companies, the PPP loan made the difference between survival and closing their doors. There has never been a time when the opportunity to help businesses was so easy, so obvious and so necessary. That success truly illustrates the value of a community bank."
In addition to making sure our customers and employees were taken care of during the pandemic, the bank recently completed a 12-month remodeling project to our main location in Itasca, which was started in August 2019. The building was built in 1968 and last remodeled in the early 1980s, so a facelift was definitely needed.
Lobby traffic has declined significantly due to technological advances and the nature of customer visits has changed. Consequently, the remodeling included reducing the size of the lobby and teller line while adding increased space for departments that are growing like Loans, Trust Services and Investments.
The end result is a beautiful, modern building reconfigured to accommodate the needs of our customers for the next 20 years. Our only disappointment is not being able to show it off with a big celebration. We recently had a ribbon cutting and we just completed a video tour to share with everyone on our website.