Tell me about your efforts with launching an Ash Grove community foundation.
We’ve started a community foundation underneath the umbrella of Community Foundation of the Ozarks. That is literally in its infancy. It’s been almost a two-year project. We’ve got a board of nine. Our goal is to be the 50th affiliate underneath the CFO. You have to have a minimum of $30,000 in an unrestricted grant-making funds to have a chapter. We’re $5,000 in.
What’s your goal for the local foundation?
Our objective is to meet some immediate needs for those less fortunate in town, but also we want to set something in place where people can have a well-respected spot to (donate) whether it be money from their estates or to do planned giving. November is the annual conference for affiliates, and I would love to be announced at that meeting that we’ve got our $30,000. Economic development is a part of the community foundation, and that’s going to be down the road for what we can do.
You’ve been working in the Ash Grove community now for five years. What’s the state of the economy, and what are the main industries in the town?
Very agricultural, as far as economy. We’ve got some local stores. Downtown is going to, we hope, be even more thriving in the next three to five years. There’s a gentleman who’s opening up a whiskey distillery. He’s not looking to get all his business from the Ash Grove community, but it’s to attract people from all over. We’re kind of a bedroom community, but we’d like to see some more economic development. We’ve attracted a lot more local ag customers since coming to Ash Grove in 2014. A lot of agricultural real estate, and we have a ton of beef cattle farmers. I’m getting ready to do my first egg laying operation loan in the next couple months. Loan portfolio has grown to nearly $33 million within the Ash Grove community … with $54.1 million in deposits.
You acquired the Bank of Ash Grove in 2014. What other communities does Old Missouri Bank operate in?
The Bank of Ash Grove was the oldest chartered bank in Greene County; 1883 is when it started. When Old Missouri bought this location, Old Missouri was allowed to keep the charter of the Bank of Ash Grove. In February, we had our grand opening in Mount Vernon. We had a location there for about a year but just opened the brand new building. When I was hired, National was the main branch, then Sunshine, and then we opened Ash Grove and then the Walnut Grove branch. We acquired a Great Southern branch in Buffalo, put a temporary location in Mount Vernon while we were building the new building. That was No. 6. And then we have a loan processing office in Carthage [opening] Aug. 1.
Consumers are demanding digital access to services across industries. Do your customers still want the option to come into a physical branch?
That’s what they’ve been used to. This is the busiest branch as far as number of transactions in the entire bank. You take it with a grain of salt because we’re the only bank in town. We see a lot of the same people on a week-to-week basis, especially our commercial customers. They would like to have that face-to-face service.
You’re in your second term serving on the Greene County Extension Council. How does that effort support smaller communities?
One of their main things they do was the celebration of century farms. Being an agricultural lender and our family having a farm, that intrigued me. I’ve been the chair for the last year and a half. We’ve had a farm in our family since 1879, so we got to recognize it as a century farm. I have a customer that I keep begging to get their application in because that’s something that’s going away. Farms are getting gobbled up. The days of the small-town, family farm are getting fewer and fewer, so it’s very important that we recognize – and that people have an idea of – how important it is to our economy.
Jason Whitesell can be reached at email@example.com.
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