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1st Independence shows commitment to Marengo with new bank home

President/CEO says Marengo branch — bank's first, in 1999 — has 'special place' in his heart

February 20, 2008
As Bill White and Gloria Bullington flipped through the old Marengo State Bank ledger, the symbolism couldn't have been more clear.

The ledger, from the bank's first year, 1907, sat in the middle of the bank's new home, up from Marengo's downtown, along S.R. 64 on the north side of town.

Now 1st Independence Bank, having been purchased in 1999 by a group that included White, the bank's president and CEO, the new facility, an improvement in both location and features, is evidence that the 101-year-old bank is as strong as ever.

"When I think back to 1999, when we bought the bank, so many people thought we weren't interested in Crawford County," said White, who joined bank employees and officials for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning.

While it is true that the ownership group became interested in Marengo State Bank because of its existing charter and has since opened seven other branches, there was never any thought of closing the facility, White said.

"We've always been committed here," he said.

White explained that's because of long-time employees like Bullington, the branch manager and a vice president, and assistant branch manager Janice Mitchell. He called their dedication — Bullington has worked at the bank for 40-plus years, while Mitchell has been employed there since the mid-1970s — "refreshing" and "encouraging."

"How cool it is for us to be able to build this facility and to open it" as a way for the ownership group to show its commitment to Marengo, White said.

The facility opened Jan. 2 and has been well received by customers, Bullington said. Although it's not larger than the old bank, it has a more open floor plan and other amenities, including an on-site ATM, that make it more convenient, she said.

The old bank had just one drive-through lane, and because of its location, bank employees had to view the customer through a closed-circuit monitor instead of a window. The new facility has two drive-through lanes, featuring a total of three chutes, positioned next to a large window, making it easy for customers and tellers to see each other.

The open lobby and large windows on the adjacent offices allow employees to see the bank's happenings at all times, making communication convenient.

"The flow works really well for us," Bullington said.

That work includes offering a full slate of banking services, such as checking and savings accounts, as well as personal loans, commercial lending products, the Home Sweet Home loan program that caters to low-income Crawford County residents in an effort to get people to build or purchase a home, construction loans and mortgages.

Bullington, who began working at the bank in 1965, said it was sad to close the old facility on Dec. 31, as the town's downtown has lost several businesses over the past decade. However, she is happy the bank donated the building to the Town of Marengo, which may move its town hall there.

"We left as much (furnishings) in there as we possibly could," White said. "So, for us it was just another way of saying thanks to the town of Marengo for supporting us for over 100 years-plus now."

White said it would have been nice to have had the new facility open in time for the bank's 100-year anniversary last year, but permitting delays made that impossible.

Work, he said, began on the new facility in December 2005, with hopes of opening the following summer, but the project was delayed because of an Indiana law that requires banks to prove that the building site and any structures to be torn down don't have historical significance.

White said bank officials thought they had done so, but learned that they hadn't and had to stop the project and hire an archaeologist to determine the land had no historical meaning.

"That created a delay," he said, adding there was also a problem with the entrance/exit way.

Since purchasing Marengo State Bank in 1999, the 1st Independence Bank ownership group has added seven other branches: two in Louisville and one each in Lawrenceburg, Ky., Harrodsburg, Ky., Clarksville, New Albany and Jeffersonville.

White, who noted the new Marengo branch is one of his favorites "because it looks great and it feels great and it makes a statement to the community," said he is particularly proud of it.

"This place is always going to have a special place in my heart because this is where the company began," he said.

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