Taylor Doescher, Prevail Bank’s branch manager (left), presents FOCUS’ pantry operations manager, Dale Davis, and Mary Schultz, FOCUS’ fundraising committee chairperson, with the $5,000 check.

Through its Charitable Contributions program, Prevail Bank donated $5,000 to Feeding Our Communities with United Services (FOCUS). FOCUS is the collaboration and merger of three non-profits in 2020: South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf (SWEPS), The Neighborhood Table (TNT), and the Rapids Family Backpacks (RFB) program. The donated funds will go toward the purchase of a new walk-in cooler that will house the food required to produce 48,000 meals a month for the low-to-moderate income individuals and families they serve.

“The services of FOCUS have helped those in need in our community for many years,” said Dale Bikowski, a member of the FOCUS Board of Directors and board treasurer. “By combining our services under one roof, it will make our efforts more efficient, beneficial, and easier for our clients fighting food insecurity, donors and volunteers.” Taylor Doescher, Prevail Bank branch manager – Wisconsin Rapids, shared, “Prevail Bank is proud to support FOCUS. We commend their efforts and successes in fighting the war on hunger.”

In July 2021, FOCUS announced a community campaign to raise $250,000 to obtain the funds needed to complete its relocation project at 2321 W. Grand Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids and to build needed operating funds. This new facility will have a commercial kitchen, a dining area, and dedicated unloading and food storage areas. Those wishing to contribute can visit, www.FOCUSofSWC.org to donate electronically.

Prevail Bank’s goal is to pursue what’s possible within the communities it serves. It is passionate about economic development, financial stability and growth for individuals, families, and businesses. Prevail Bank is a community bank that is continuously looking for ways to give back, support those pursuing dreams, and make things better in central Wisconsin.

National Exchange Bank & Trust is excited to announce that a National Exchange Bank CheckCard holder was selected as the first-place winner in the ScoreBIG Sweepstakes, a nation-wide promotion hosted by the bank’s rewards program partner, ScoreCard® Rewards.

The promotion ran August 1 through October 31, 2021, and prizes ranged from 1 Million ScoreCard points (grand prize) to 25,000 ScoreCard points. ScoreCard® Rewards card holders received one free entry per month and additional entries with qualifying purchases.

“We were thrilled to see a NEBAT customer win the first-place prize of 350,000 ScoreCard points. The retail value of those points is $3,500. When I spoke with our customer, she was very excited and is planning to share her winnings with her sisters to go on a spring vacation together. It’s very rewarding to be able to offer our customers value-added products, like ScoreCard Rewards,” commented Karri Oelke, marketing coordinator at National Exchange Bank.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Grassroots advocacy is at the foundation of WBA’s advocacy efforts to ensure that elected officials in Wisconsin and Washington D.C. understand the impact of their initiatives on the banking industry. The relationships that many of you develop with your representatives play a critical role in the success of WBA’s advocacy priorities. As part of our grassroots advocacy, WBA’s hosts an annual Capitol Day in Madison to help bankers around the state connect with their legislators on issues important to the industry and on actions our government can take to aid in the economic growth and strength of our communities.

As our 2022 Capitol Day quickly approaches, I invite you to join your fellow bankers in meeting face-to-face at the State Capitol to advocate on several key issues affecting the banking industry this session. Few Wisconsin legislators have experience in banking and your grassroot involvement is essential in reinforcing the impact legislative proposals will have on your bank, the industry, and your communities.

As we have mentioned in other publications, there will a public hearing on the credit union powers’ bill — SB 451 — on January 11, just one week before WBA’s Capitol Day. The timing of your attendance and conversations with legislators and their staff will be critical in helping us either defeat any further progress made or amend the bill. Moreover, the credit union industry is hosting their annual Capitol Day a week after ours, so it is imperative that we have a strong showing of bankers on January 18 to offset the large numbers we expect the credit union industry to have present at their event.

The event includes hearing from several State Assembly and Senate leaders, moderated discussions with political insiders Scott Jensen and Chuck Chvala, and WBA’s Government Relations update on the legislative session thus far. This information will provide every attendee the knowledge needed to be prepared for the afternoon of meeting face-to-face with your elected legislators in meetings WBA will schedule.

Again, the relationships bankers build at Capitol Day assist us in advocating successfully for the banking industry throughout the year. I hope you and/or others from your team will join me and your fellow bankers at the State Capitol in Madison on January 18 for WBA’s annual Capitol Day.

Triangle Background

Lu Ann Fecht (right) and Rose Oswald Poels (left) celebrate Fecht’s lifetime of service to the banking industry.

Following 45 years in the banking industry, Lu Ann Fecht was presented a lifetime service award by WBA president and CEO Rose Oswald Poels at her retirement event held by Royal Bank on December 16.

Pictured left to right are: Prevail Bank professionals Dave Johns, chief retail officer; Nick White, commercial lending officer; Greg Luedtke, branch manager; Brenda Knutson, marketing coordinator; Ryan Ludy (NMLS# 1836499), mortgage loan originator; and Jenny Ebert (NMLS# 523594), mortgage loan originator followed by WRI professionals Christian Blaisdell, CEO; Erik Hinch, work readiness specialist; Tammy King, business services specialist; and Nancy Kraft, fund development specialist.

Prevail Bank donated $1,980 to Workforce Resource, Inc (WRI) to assist them in the engagement and enrollment of low-to-moderate income individuals into its programming and career readiness workshops — helping community members become work-ready and securing them employment.

“We really appreciate Prevail Bank’s generosity and assistance,” said Christian Blaisdell, Workforce Resource, Inc.’s chief executive officer. “It is difficult to achieve a job’s objectives if you don’t have the proper tools and equipment. Prevail Bank rectified that situation for us. We are most grateful.”

Brenda Knutson, Prevail Bank marketing coordinator, shared, “We applaud WRI on its efforts, enhancing the standard of living of those they assist, stimulating local communities financially, and reducing the current labor market shortage in nine Wisconsin counties. We are proud to support them.”

Workforce Resource, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation that operates workforce development programs through job centers in nine counties: Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix. Its mission is to empower people through employment.

Prevail Bank’s goal is to pursue what’s possible within its local communities. Passionate about the advancement of community based projects and supporting local organization growth, Prevail Bank is a community bank that is continuously working to support the communities it serves.

Prevail Bank’s Charitable Contributions program is available for local non-profit organizations that help local people in need, especially those with low-to-moderate incomes; stimulate communities financially; and/or enhances the standard of living of those less fortunate. If your organization is interested in applying for funds for a major initiative in your community, go to: Prevail.bank/resources/community.

By Jeff Wilke, Denmark State Bank

As the calendar turns to 2022, there is no shortage of old and new challenges facing the ag customers we work with — continued high feed prices, escalating crop input costs, supply chain delays, labor shortages, etc. In order to weather the storm of this next round of challenges and future storms, it has never been more important for farmers to be good business managers.

That being said, the question I pose is — How would you rate the farmers you work with as business managers? This may be a subjective process in many ways. However, there are objective standards to consider when rating a farmer’s management skills or Business IQ, as Dr. David M. Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Ag & Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, calls it.

Per Dr. Kohl, Business IQ contains for cornerstones — Planning, Strategizing, Executing & Monitoring. From Dr. Kohl’s findings, ag producers with high management skills have plans for all areas of their farm operation, using those plans to prioritize their strategies; then executing those strategies using sound data, objectivity and intuition; and finally, and just as importantly, periodically monitoring the results.

From these cornerstones, Dr. Kohl has developed a Score Card that analyzes 15 management factors specific to ag producers. The Score Card can be found by doing a search for “Dr. David Kohl Business IQ”.

The factor getting the most attention is “Knows Cost of Production”. Other factors include creating goals, keeping a solid internal record keeping system, maintaining a modest lifestyle, continuously attending agricultural seminars/courses, and maintaining certain attitudes. Farmers who have many of the factors addressed in writing score much higher than those who have nothing documented.

In order to continue to build on their management skills, Dr. Kohl recommends that a farmer reexamine/re-score their Business IQ annually to see where progress has been made and where progress still needs to be made.

The bottom line is that a farmer that has strong management skills/Business IQ can navigate through challenging times (“weather the storms”) by keeping a close watch on their ability to plan, strategize, execute, and monitor the various aspects of their farm business.

Coming up on January 4, 2022, ag bankers have the opportunity to hear directly from Dr. Kohl as he shares his outlook for 2022 and beyond. Be sure to check out the Midwest Economic Forecast Forum, and you can even invite your ag customers to join your group to hear directly from Dr. Kohl as well. The session will be recorded and available for two weeks, so even in January 4 doesn’t work for you or your clients, check it out online.

Happy Holidays.

Wilke is Vice President, Agribusiness Lender at Denmark State Bank and serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.

By John Cronin

Legislative and Congressional redistricting is one of the most significant things the state Legislature undertakes every ten years in order adjust each Assembly, Senate, and Congressional district after the census. The Legislature is responsible for redrawing lines, subject to the Governor’s veto. This saga has been playing out for several months now in all three branches of government.  

Over the summer, before census data was even available to draw new district boundaries, right- and left-leaning interest groups were filing lawsuits attempting to steer inevitable litigation to either the State Supreme Court or federal court. This was done because everyone knew the GOP-controlled state Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would never agree on a redistricting plan. Both the Wisconsin Supreme Court (SCOWIS) and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals accepted separate cases on the matter earlier in the fall. 

What many predicted would inevitably be a perfunctory legislative process did indeed take place in October and November. Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate introduced new maps in late October. Those maps were approved in each house on party-line votes in mid-November. True to his word, Gov. Evers vetoed those maps a week later.  

Upon the Governor’s veto, the redistricting process ended up in its expected destination — the courts. This will be litigated over the next month in the Wisconsin Supreme Court; the federal panel paused their action, stating they were going to observe SCOWIS’s action before deciding whether to act. 

The most recent development in the case at the state level took place on November 30, when SCOWIS stated they would make the “minimum changes necessary” to the current legislative and congressional maps when it determines new boundaries. This was viewed as a big win for Republicans, who already hold significant majorities in both chambers of the State House. 

Oral arguments are expected in January before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A decision on district boundaries must be made in advance of April 15, the first day candidates may circulate nomination papers for the November 2022 general election.

Mike Molepske, chief executive officer of Bank First (NASDAQ: BFC), is pleased to announce the promotion of several key team members. “We are proud of our team and delighted to recognize the talent and contributions of these remarkable bankers,” stated Molepske. “The evolution of their roles more closely aligns the bank’s organizational structure with our strategic plan, positioning us for continued growth as the top-performing bank in Wisconsin.”

Joan Woldt

Joan Woldt, executive vice president and regional president, is being promoted to executive vice president and co-chief operating officer. Woldt started with Bank First in 2010 as regional president, hired alongside a team of bankers to establish a new Fox Valley Region for Bank First. She was first responsible for the Oshkosh market, then Appleton, and eventually oversaw the Green Bay market. Total relationship core deposits in these markets have grown in aggregate to $390 million, and loans have grown in excess of $658 million during her tenure. Woldt brings a culture and focus on the bank’s customer experience, understanding the importance of attracting, retaining, and developing strong bankers in its markets. Over the next six months, Woldt will be assuming the duties and responsibilities of Mike Dempsey, who announced earlier this year he will retire from his role as president in June 2022. Woldt’s responsibilities as co-chief operating officer will center on bank-wide regional reporting, which includes commercial and retail functions as well as frontline training. Kelly Fischer, chief operating officer at Bank First, will continue to oversee the bank’s deposit operations, treasury management, IT, facilities, and retail and commercial loan operations teams. Woldt earned her bachelor’s degree from UW – Green Bay with an emphasis in finance. She is currently attending the Stonier Graduate School of Banking program. Woldt serves on the Oshkosh Area Chamber Board of Directors as president, on the UW – Green Bay Alumni Foundation Board of Directors, and is a long-time member of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Finance Committee. In the past, Woldt served on the board and as president of the Oshkosh Community YMCA Board of Directors and served on the board of the Fox Cities Chamber. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, practicing yoga, and her two dogs.

Jason Krepline

Jason Krepline, executive vice president and senior loan officer, is being promoted to executive vice president and chief lending officer. Krepline started with Bank First in 2005 as vice president of business banking. Soon thereafter he was promoted to regional president and senior loan officer, where he was responsible for establishing the bank’s footprint in Sheboygan while ensuring Bank First’s lending portfolio remained in line with its culture of superior credit quality. Since 2008, Bank First has seen exponential growth in Sheboygan under the leadership of Krepline, growing from $61 million in total deposits to $326 million and from $142 million in total loans to $454 million. Today, Krepline oversees Bank First’s Sheboygan County and West Regions in addition to providing leadership on bank credit decisions. In his new role as chief lending officer, Krepline will also be appointed as Chair of Bank First’s Board Loan Committee.

Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley, senior vice president and market manager of Appleton, is being promoted to regional president of Bank First’s Fox Valley, Green Bay, and Waupaca markets. Bradley joined Bank First in 2013 and has over 20 years of banking experience. Bradley will continue to be responsible for the retention and growth of customer relationships as well as employee development for Bank First. In his new role, he will support the market managers within his region to further grow relationships and develop talent at the bank. Bradley earned his bachelor degree in business from UW – Oshkosh. Active in the community, he has served as a board member of the Fox Cities YMCA, Reach Counseling, and Wisconsin Business Development. Bradley is currently a member of Midwest Business Brokers and Intermediaries (MBBI). He is involved in the Fox Cities area, serving on various committees and coaching youth sports. A native of northeast Wisconsin, Bradley resides in Appleton with his wife, Julie, and their two children. In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities such as golf, skiing, boating, hunting, and spending time with his family.

Joshua Patterson

Joshua Patterson, vice president – branch manager, is being promoted to vice president – market manager in Watertown. Patterson joined Bank First in 2020 and has over 16 years of experience in the financial industry, specializing in mortgage lending, and small business lending. A proven leader in the Watertown market, Patterson will continue to be responsible for growing new and enhancing existing retail banking relationships, as well as small business relationships. He will also be instrumental in attracting and developing a core team of bankers in Bank First’s Watertown office. Patterson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from Wisconsin Lutheran College. He is currently a member of the Jefferson County Board of Realtors and the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin. He recently served as a member of the school board at his church in Jefferson and enjoys spending time as a volunteer youth coach. Patterson enjoys playing basketball in winter recreation leagues, is an avid sports fan, enjoys camping with his family, and takes pleasure in lending a helping hand on his parent’s farm. He lives in Jefferson with his wife, Melissa, and their four children.

Cody Mlsna

Cody Mlsna, credit analyst, is being promoted to credit officer. Mlsna joined Bank First through its merger with Timberwood Bank in 2020 and has over five years of experience as a credit analyst. During his tenure, he has supported the Tomah Business Banking team by underwriting and helping structure commercial lending relationships, with a focus on agricultural banking. Mlsna has become the Small Business Administration (SBA) lead for the bank and assists with nearly every SBA loan originated at Bank First. In his expanded role, Mlsna will be a lead for the entire credit team by assisting with work flow administration, underwriting the bank’s most complex relationships, and training credit analysts. Mlsna received his associate degree in accounting from Western Technical College in La Crosse. He was born and raised in Tomah, and currently resides there with his wife, Nicole. Mlsna enjoys weightlifting, traveling, and car detailing.

For more information about Bank First, visit www.BankFirstWI.bank.

WBA Releases Results of Bank CEO Economic Conditions Survey

In the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s biannual Economic Conditions Survey of Wisconsin bank CEOs, 79% of respondents rated Wisconsin’s current economic health as “excellent” or “good.” This marks a significant increase since December 2020, when only 42% of survey respondents gave “excellent” or “good” ratings. Sixty-four percent of Wisconsin bank CEOs who completed the most recent survey predict that the economy will stay the same in the next six months, while 21% predict it will grow and 15% predict it will weaken. 

 
“Wisconsin bank CEOs are in a unique position to gain insights into the microeconomic activities in their markets given the critical roles they play as lenders, advisors, and community leaders. As such, they often see developments occurring before economic trends are widely identified,” said WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels. “As industries rebound — including tourism, manufacturing, construction, and agriculture  economic stability is taking hold. 
 
Many bank CEOs highlighted bright spots in their local economies such as low unemployment rates, strong consumer demand, a strong housing market, high commodity prices, growth in health care technology, and increased manufacturing and constructionAmong the sources of economic concern for bank CEOs were inflation, new variants and waves of COVID-19, and workforce shortages and supply chain issues preventing businesses from realizing growth. 
 
The end-of-year 2021 survey was conducted December 14–24 with 80 respondents. Sums may not equal 100 percent due to rounding. Below is a breakdown of the survey questions and responses. 

Wisconsin Bank CEO Economic Conditions Survey Results 

How would you rate the current health of the Wisconsin economy. . .  End-of-Year 2021  Mid-Year 2021  End-of-Year 2020 
Excellent  6%  15%  4% 
Good  73%  76%  38% 
Fair  20%  10%  58% 
Poor  1%  0%  1% 
         
In the next six months, do you expect the Wisconsin economy to. . .        
Grow  21%  48%  45% 
Weaken  15%  39%  14% 
Stay the same  64%  13%  41% 
         
Rate the current demand in the following loan categories:        
Business         
Excellent  9%  10%  4% 
Good  48%  30%  29% 
Fair  39%  52%  56% 
Poor  5%  8%  12% 
         
Commercial Real Estate        
Excellent  11%  13%  4% 
Good  44%  44%  30% 
Fair  41%  33%  52% 
Poor  4%  10%  14% 
         
Residential Real Estate        
Excellent  25%  40%  63% 
Good  48%  48%  29% 
Fair  24%  12%  8% 
Poor  3%  0%  0% 
         
Agricultural        
Excellent  1%  2%  0% 
Good  22%  34%  19% 
Fair  58%  56%  59% 
Poor  18%  8%  22% 
         
In the next six months, do you anticipate the demand for the following loan categories will. . .        
Business         
Grow  28%  43%  39% 
Weaken  14%  7%  13% 
Stay the same  59%  51%  48% 
         
Commercial Real Estate        
Grow  24%  31%  32% 
Weaken  21%  8%  25% 
Stay the same  55%  31%  43% 
         
Residential Real Estate        
Grow  11%  14%  20% 
Weaken  56%  41%  40% 
Stay the same  33%  46%  39% 
         
Agricultural        
Grow  15%  18%  20% 
Weaken  14%  6%  15% 
Stay the same  71%  76%  65% 
         
In the next six months, are the businesses in your bank’s market area likely to. . .        
Hire employees  68%  82%  30% 
Maintain current staffing levels  33%  15%  62% 
Lay off employees  0%  3%  8% 
         
In the next six months, is your bank likely to. . .        
Hire employees  55%  48%  34% 
Maintain current staffing levels  43%  45%  65% 
Lay off employees  3%  6%  1% 
         

 

Pictured left to right are: Prevail Bank’s Brian Ashbeck (NMLS# 681740), commercial loan officer; Tari Jahns, United Way of South Wood and Adams Counties’ CEO; and Taylor Doescher, Prevail Bank branch manager.

Prevail Bank donated $2,500 to the United Way of South Wood and Adams Counties to support specific programming that assists the low-to-moderate income individuals and families, those being food pantries and backpack programs.

“At United Way,” said Tari Jahns, CEO of United Way of South Wood and Adams Counties, “we focus on the building blocks of a better life: education, financial stability, health, and safety net services like emergency shelter and food. We help fund 29 partner programs, lead six community coalitions, and ten community initiatives that impact nearly 20,000 people locally. And, none of this would be a reality, if it weren’t for the generosity of Prevail Bank and others.”

Taylor Doescher, Prevail Bank branch manager – Wisconsin Rapids, shared, “Prevail Bank is proud to support the United Way of South Wood and Adams Counties. We commend their efforts and successes in making Wisconsin Rapids and our surrounding communities great places to live.”

Prevail Bank’s goal is to pursue what’s possible within the communities it serves. It is passionate about economic development, financial stability and growth for individuals, families, and businesses. Prevail Bank is a community bank that is continuously looking for ways to give back, support those pursuing dreams, and make things better in central Wisconsin.

Prevail Bank’s Charitable Contributions program is available for local non-profit organizations that help local people in need, especially those with low-to-moderate incomes; stimulate communities financially; and/or enhances the standard of living of those less fortunate. If your organization is interested in applying for funds for a major initiative in your community, go to: Prevail.bank/resources/community.