First in the Community

First National Bank Awards $904,000 in Community Development Grants

At First National Bank, we firmly believe that we have the ability and a responsibility to help make our communities stronger.  That’s why we recently awarded a total of $904,000 in community development grants to 47 organizations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.  The grants were awarded to proven community partners who are working to increase access to safe and affordable housing and those helping to start and grow local businesses.  Learn more.

When We Support Local Businesses, Good Things Happen.

At First National Bank, we believe that when people support their communities by banking, shopping, and giving locally, everyone benefits. A community is made up of interconnected elements such as the population’s education and financial literacy, availability of affordable housing, access to jobs, and the general exchange of goods and services.  When people bank, shop, and give locally, they are supporting the health of each of these elements and the overall success of their community.  However, it could be argued that at the core of every successful community is the presence of local businesses of all sizes and types.  Local businesses feed a cycle of community success that makes good things happen for the entire community.

It Begins With Our Customers
When our customers trust us to serve their financial needs, they enable us to give out loans that make things happen in a community that may not otherwise happen. When a loan is given to individuals, it enables them to realize their goals and dreams so they can live prosperous lives.  When a loan is given to a local business, they have the ability to start, grow, and thrive.  Both of these scenarios feed the cycle of community success that impacts every facet of a community.

Local Businesses Support Communities
When a community is home to local businesses of all sizes and types that offer a variety of goods and services, the whole community benefits.  The citizens are able to purchase the items they need and want locally which simultaneously supports the businesses and keeps their hard-earned money within their community.  Local businesses may then use their profits to continue expanding their businesses or they may choose to reinvest a portion back into the community.  Additionally, the increase in state tax dollars collected helps support local projects and services.

Jobs Are Created
An increase in local businesses results in an increase in the availability of local jobs.  More local jobs means citizens won’t have to look outside the community to obtain employment that fits their skillset.  Time spent commuting to and from work is reduced, positively impacting physical and mental health.  State income tax dollars remain within the community to support public services.  Ultimately, citizens remain within that community because it supports all of their needs.

Communities Grow
When a community contains a variety of local business, people are attracted to it and want to be a part of it.  Housing developments tend to surround these business hubs, creating more housing options for citizens.  The jobs that are created by these businesses help individuals qualify for mortgage loans, which increase homeownership rates across the community.  Higher homeownership rates are a key factor in helping communities thrive because the pride of homeownership contributes to ongoing neighborhood upkeep, which helps maintain or increase home values. Additionally, when a local business is successful, they are able to reinvest back into the community that supports them.  They may choose to do that in the form or philanthropy or by volunteering to support an element of successful communities that they are passionate about.

People Thrive
Whether it is the business owner, the employee, or the an individual positively impacted by philanthropy, the revenue that the local businesses generate enables people to live prosperous lives.  These people are in a better position to buy a home, build equity, and start creating wealth that can be passed down to the next generation.  They are better able to afford the goods and services they need, the extras that make life enjoyable, and still have enough left over to save for the future.

First National Bank is committed to feeding the cycle of community success by providing loans to aspiring entrepreneurs and by reinvesting in organizations working to help local businesses start, grow, and thrive.  Click here to learn more.

2017 First in the Community Impact Report

At First National Bank, it is our vision that all of the communities we serve will be strong and successful.  That’s why we partner with community leaders and direct our investments to eight interconnected assets of a successful community – Strong Local Economies, Educated Workforce, Stable Housing, Vibrant Neighborhoods, Community Cohesion, Access to Culture, Good Health and Sustained Environment.  By doing so, we can be assured we’re helping where need is greatest and results are best realized.

Today we published our 2017 First in the Community Impact Report which showcases our community reinvestments throughout our seven-state footprint and the outcomes that we helped our community partners achieve.  It shares both individual achievement and collective impact, as well as the progress toward meeting our 2020 goals and objectives. Serving the community is a privilege for which we remain grateful for, and our commitment will remain strong in 2018 and beyond.

Click here to view the full report.

Grameen America’s Microloans Produce Mega Results for Women in Omaha

For 10 years, Grameen America has pursued its mission to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship by offering loans and financial services to low-income women who wish to start a business throughout the U.S., including Omaha.

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to understand why Grameen America is recognized as the fastest growing microfinance organization in the nation. According to Tanzila Salahuddin and Julia Akselrud, representatives from Grameen America, since the Omaha branch opened in 2009, it has issued more than $66.4 million in loans to more than 7,000 women in the greater Omaha area. Last year alone, the branch issued $13.7 million in loans to more than 3,200 women, resulting in 117 new businesses opened and 334 jobs created or retained.

The Omaha branch is one of the largest in the Grameen America network, which includes 20 locations in 13 cities. Across the nation, more than $820 million in loans have been disbursed to over 98,000 women since 2008. Remarkably, Grameen maintains a 99.8 percent repayment rate.

When an entrepreneur initially seeks a small business loan from Grameen America, they are limited to a maximum of $1,500, which is repaid over a six-month period. After the initial loan is repaid, the women become eligible to receive larger loans to invest in their businesses, allowing them to accept more clients, stock more inventory or add an employee. Approximately 85 percent of women who complete their first loan cycle come back for a second loan.

“We have Omaha members who have larger loans of over $7,000 depending on how long they have been in the program,” Tanzila shares. “And after the second or third loan cycle, we see about 90 percent of our members stay with the program and come back for larger loans.”

The loans are used for a wide range of business start-ups such as food and beverage operations, cosmetic sales, clothing and fashion apparel, and a range of miscellaneous sales and services. Many businesses in Omaha operate out of the member’s home before eventually moving into a storefront.

Credit building is a major emphasis of the Grameen America business model. To qualify for a loan, financial training sessions are required. “Just by being a Grameen America member and making weekly repayments, our members are building credit files,” says Julia. “These sessions help members understand how to read their credit report and what actions to take to improve their credit scores and the impact that will have on their lives.”

Part of what makes the Grameen America business model work so well is the support of organizations from the communities they serve. Since 2013, Grameen America has enjoyed a partnership with First National Bank, which has provided $2.5 million in Equity-Equivalent Investments and more than $110,000 in grants.

“First National Bank has really helped us grow our portfolio in Omaha, as well as assist with operating expenses at our branch because the grants are directly being used to support the salaries of staff members who work very closely with our members,” Tanzila emphasizes.

Likewise, First National Bank is proud of its partnership with Grameen America who is working to promote economic develop and self-sufficiency for low to moderate income women.

Living the ‘Great Life’

Mitchell golf and fitness center sees rapid growth in recent years

For its first 70-plus years, not much changed at Mitchell, S.D.’s nine-hole golf course. But over the past two decades, the course – built in 1929 – has grown exponentially.

A spectacular view from one of the holes on the course.

The Wild Oak Gold Course has added nine additional holes, making it a full 18-hole, 6,902-yard golf course; a housing development has sprung up around the course; and last year, Wild Oak partnered with the GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club chain to add components to the popular business.

And, says Dave Backlund Jr., general manager at GreatLIFE Wild Oak, more growth is on the way as the facility looks for additional fitness center space.

GreatLIFE Wild Oak currently partners with Mitchell’s Dakota Wesleyan University, whose 80,000-square-foot athletic center leases space to the golf and fitness center.

“Dakota Wesleyan has a huge indoor track and basketball courts that they allow our members to use as well,” Backlund said. “And during the week, we use our banquet hall to run about 32 fitness classes, so we’re looking to expand.”

GreatLIFE Wild Oak is open to the public as well as to club memberships, which has grown to about 3,000 members, Backlund said. That’s up from about 450 just two years ago.

Wild Oak’s partnership with GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness – a chain of 45 golf and fitness centers in the Midwest – began in 2016. The owners are Dave Backlund Sr., and Tom Walsh, CEO of the GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club franchise.

“We started putting our memberships together last year,” Backlund Jr. said. “If you get a golf membership, the fitness is included, so you’re technically a golf and fitness member when you join as a golf member. We also have separate fitness memberships for fitness only.”

Newly expanded fitness center accommodates any level of athlete.

Connecting with the Mitchell community

With Dakota Wesleyan University next door (48 percent of its student body participates in athletics), and with the newly expanded GreatLIFE Wild Oak golf and fitness center, Backlund Jr. said there is a special focus on athletics and fitness in the community.

“There is a big emphasis on and support for youth when it comes to school athletics, as well as with the private clubs that go on,” he said. “There’s swimming and soccer and hockey, just to name a few.

“Mitchell’s really stepped up to address those needs, and really listened to input from the community, so we strive on getting those things done. When I was a kid, we played ice hockey, but we had to go to Huron (S.D.) to do it. Now we have two sheets of ice in town, and they’re both covered, so they carry that into the summertime.”

The Mitchell school system also has an impressive baseball and softball complex, which allows the city of about 16,000 to host tournaments, including the annual state baseball tournament.

“We have one of the best facilities in the state to host that event,” Backlund said.

Opening soon in Mitchell is a new $8 million indoor aquatic center, which is being constructed now.

“All of this growth keeps the city alive, keeps people moving, and keeps events coming here and keeps us moving forward, which is refreshing to see,” Backlund said.

New partnerships all around

A barrage of equipment available at GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness.

When the Bucklands chose to become a franchisee partner with GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness, they also took on a new banking partner with First National Bank.

“First National has been very easy to get along with – I mean, you just start talking with them about ideas, and brainstorming ideas, and they listen and want to know right away how they can help us accomplish our goals, and how we can make this work. They’re just very open minded and so easy to get along with,” Backlund said.

“If we need anything, if we get in a pinch, and we need this or that – whatever – they’re just a phone call away. Everybody there is so approachable. When we need to sit down and talk they respond with, ‘Hey, let’s go sit down and have lunch.’ It’s not like we’ve got to set up something a month in advance to try to get on their calendar. Really, they’ve been right behind us every step of the way.”

The Art of Persistence

Burks brothers join forces – eventually – and grow successful company

It took a while, but Don Burks finally talked his brother, Jim, into starting a drywall business together. The two had been working for drywall companies for several years, with Don focusing on residential projects and Jim working on commercial jobs.

Jim liked what he was doing and declined Don’s offer for several years. But in 1985, he agreed and Burks Bros. Drywall was formed.

“I think my uncle got tired of my dad asking and finally agreed,” said Mike Burks, a second-generation co-owner of the Yorkville, Ill.-based company, which serves the Greater Chicago area.

It was a good decision, as Burks Bros. Drywall has become a long-running, successful business. When they began, the Burks brothers were focused on residential projects – “that was their bread and butter for quite a while,” Mike Burks said. “When they started, the housing market was really starting to get going again, so there was a tremendous amount of residential work that was going on at that time. They were very busy.”

Busy in the warmer months, that is. In the winter, however, business slowed and the Burks looked for other avenues to keep their staff working year-round.

Yorkville High School, based in Yorkville, Ill., revitalized their library with the help of Burks Bros. Drywall.

“They decided to bid on a few commercial jobs in the winter so they could keep everything rolling throughout the whole year,” said Mike, who joined the company in 1990. “We started with one or two jobs in the winter, and then the next year it turned into three and four, and then five and six, and it just kind of kept growing. Before we knew it, we were doing more commercial jobs than we were residential.”

Today, Burks Bros. averages between 25 and 35 employees and focuses 90 percent of their business on commercial projects, which have expanded outside of the Chicago area.

“We go as far north as Wisconsin, as far east as Indiana, and as far west as Iowa. And we’ve gone as far south as Peoria, Illinois,” said Mike, who with his brother, Brett, took over ownership of the company when Don and Jim retired in 2007.

“We do a lot of school work, a lot of projects for several different school districts throughout the collar counties (the five counties that boarder Chicago’s Cook County).

“We do jobs from as little as a few hundred dollars to $2 million.”

Giving back to the community

As a board member on the Chamber of Commerce in Yorkville, Mike said he is involved with a variety of projects in the city of more than 18,000.

He said Burks Bros. has been longtime supporters of the local youth athletic teams, because “we always try to give back to the community as much as we can.”

Burks Bros. has also partnered with First National Bank to help fund athletics in the Yorkville School District through the First National Bank Challenge. That effort is part of an ongoing relationship that began with Don and Jim Burks.

“When my dad and uncle started the business, that’s where they went for their first loan,” Mike said. “And we’ve been with them ever since – we’ve never gone anywhere else.

“Anytime we’ve gone to them to talk to about expansion or equipment, or with something to that effect, they’ve always been willing to sit down with us and talk about it, and we’ve always worked out a solution. I mean, they’ve been a tremendous partner.”