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  • Fairbury News staff

Bank marks 75th anniversary

Customers inside the former Bank of Pontiac building (photo provided).

Bank of Pontiac may have grown over the years, but the idea of serving the community and local involvement continues to this day.

The bank is preparing to mark its 75th anniversary in September and it all started in 1947 with a vision.

“A small group of businessmen wanted to offer another banking alternative to the community other than the only bank that was viable in town at the time,” explained Bank of Pontiac CEO and chairman of the board, Bill Kauffman.

From there, the bank has grown to just shy of a billion dollars in assets with locations in Coal City, Dwight, Odell, Pontiac, Bloomington, Minier, Delavan, Fairbury and Forrest.

“Currently, we employ about 140 people,” said Kauffman.

The bank opened for business at 204 N. Main in Pontiac on Sept. 8, 1947. Capital, surplus and reserves totaled $120,000. In June 1952, the bank moved to a new location at 124 W. Washington in Pontiac, known as the Sterry Building. Board members approved and confirmed the purchase of land for a new bank building in July 1968 and opened the current building at 300 W. Washington Street in October 1970.

Bank of Pontiac is a true representation of what a community bank is, according to Kauffman, as they strive to be the hometown bank in each community served. Local families and business owners affiliated with the bank date back to the original organizers.

“It has always consisted of local ownership, local board membership and local business people.”

Kauffman notes the bank supports each of its communities. One of the biggest ventures is with the annual Prairie Dirt Classic race at Fairbury Speedway and they just made a large contribution to the Evenglow construction project in Pontiac.

“We do have advisory boards in our branch regions, made up of local people from those communities,” added Kauffman.

In the early days, everything was on paper and today, plenty of technology is utilized in the business leading to a near paperless world. Instead of a savings book, most information can be documented on a phone or computer.

“That’s probably one of the biggest changes,” admits Chief Operations Officer and Executive Vice President Bob Meiner.

Meiner feels the bank’s strength is customer service, which is something that has not changed over the years.

“Back when it started, it was all about the customer and we feel it still is,” said Meiner.

Community involvement is more than just writing a check as the employees serve on local school boards, churches and other groups. Kauffman considers the bank fortunate to have all of the employees.

“Without them, it doesn’t work,” he noted.

From farming operations to downtown businesses and manufacturing, Bank of Pontiac has been right there with them over the years.

“When you say it’s a full-service bank, it is definitely that,” concluded Kauffman.

In honor of Bank of Pontiac’s 75th anniversary, a Business After Hours event is planned at the main bank lobby in Pontiac on Thursday, Sept. 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. The catered event will be held in collaboration with the Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce and the public is invited.

The outside of the former Bank of Pontiac building (photo provided).

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