Saturday, October 27, 2012



      It is a long and weary fight to try and keep rural and small town America prosperous and viable.  There is not only the outside influences that attract the young folks away with the jobs (that are not there anymore), and the lifestyle of lights and fun.  More and more of those who leave to find out that the attraction is fine in your 20's but when you are raising a family, and trying to instill values in your kids, there is "no place like home".
      But the relenting attack by a combination of things is killing the places that we come from.  People now think that food comes from the grocery stores.  We used to say kids but they are all grown up and raising their own in this mind set.
     We are taught in business school that only the bottom line is important and things like customer service are secondary considerations.  MBA's have been put in charge of many companies buying divisions as well as management.  You can attest to this by walking into a national farm chain store or any other clothing store and try to buy large size clothing.  Racks and racks of small, medium, large, and 1X are full but the larger sizes are either sold out or not there at all.  This in a time when 60% of the American population is over weight or obese.
      The MBA mentality and the increase of government regulation has devastated the community banking system.  Most of the regulations were put in place because fo the Mega Banks that were "too big to fail", collapsed the system.  Now this mentality is wreaking havoc on rural America.
     My example:  ISABEL, KS. is a small town that many would call dead or dying from the first view.  Population 90 until 6 moved out the other day.  Having had it's 125 celebration this year it is the main office for a Coop that has 6 or more locations.  The town is fighting for it's half day post office.  If closed the office that would be designated as theirs is in another county and 45 minutes away.
     Isabel has a community store that is open from 9am to 2pm. it is holding it's own.  A farm manufacturer is the only industry in town and it is a family concern.  There is a bank with all the marble and classic architecture from the turn of the 19th century.  Once the 'half day' branch was owned by a Kansas City banking chain.  It was always in danger of closing.  Now the bank is owned by a "local" bank chain. 
      Thinking that the "local" bank would be more attuned to customer service it came as a shock that at the end of the year it will be closed and combined with the Medicine Lodge branch.
      Trying to gauge the feelings of the community so this is not my own rant I talked with ranchers and towns people about the impact on the area.  I even visited with a bank manager and obtained the notice letter that was sent out to patrons.  I wanted to get both sides of the story.
      Needless to say the patrons are devastated.  This is creating a hole in the town and another empty building.  Those coming from the Pratt area where the bank closed it's branch some years ago now will have to go on to Medicine Lodge or Kingman. 
     To quote one rancher "it will cost them more in business and ill will than the cost of keeping it open".  The official explanation of the banking chain is that regulation and fixed costs prompted the move.
      The problem with strictly bottom line decisions is that customer service and good will suffers and may cost more in the long run than the black and white figures show.  Rural America suffers when our own adopte the attitudes of those who ignore the backbone of the nation and don't care if main street closes its doors.
      If our own corporations and family businesses do not strive to keep small town and rural life attractive we are shooting ourselves in the foot.  There has to be more consideration as to why a business exists.  It is getting virtually imposible for a young ambitious person to start or expand new things because bank loans are virtually impossible.  This pushes the demand for government or other funding vehicals.  This kills growth and inovation.
      The black and white arguments just don't work in todays world and if we cannot help ourselves I will quote our US Representative, "Don't come to the government for help, you won't like the results".
      I hope the banking family will look more to customer service.  Profit is essential and I am all for it, but customer satisfaction is the backbone of any venture.  Kill that and kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

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