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Milton bank doing better than ever as it hits milestone

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Stacy Vogel
December 15, 2009
— The Bank of Milton didn’t make headlines last year when the economy collapsed.

It didn’t make huge profits during the housing bubble, and it didn’t suffer huge losses when the bubble burst.


In fact, the bank at 323 Parkview Drive is doing better than ever as it celebrates its 125th anniversary this month, President Dan Honold said. Assets have grown 13 percent this year and deposits have grown 15 percent, he said.


“We are financially stronger than we’ve ever been, and we didn’t have to take any money from the government,” Honold said.


Honold believes more customers are turning to locally owned banks after the economic meltdown last fall. Smaller banks didn’t make as many risky investments as their corporate cousins, so they were seen as more reliable during the recession, he said.


“(Customers) have learned that you have to know and trust your financial institution,” Honold said.


Milton residents always have shown loyalty to locally owned banks. The city has three independent banks and no corporate ones, a rarity these days, said Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association.


“I think that speaks volumes of the loyalty of Milton residents to be able to support three community banks,” he said.


Bank of Milton customers said they appreciate the small-town feel of the bank.


“Even if I’m not in for a couple of weeks, they still know my name and say, ‘Hi,’” said Laura Miller. “It’s definitely a lot more service than you’d get in a Janesville bank.”


Employees get to know the customers and their families, Honold said. Often, the bank serves several generations of the same families.


That helps when it comes to loaning money, he said. For example, many banks won’t give a home loan to someone who just changed jobs, he said. But if the Bank of Milton knows the customer is trustworthy, it might overlook that.


“A lot of times with your bigger banks … either you fit in the box or you don’t,” he said. “They can’t bend the rules.”


The bank also gives back to Milton by reinvesting money in the community and participating in community events, he said.


“It’s kind of like a revolving circle,” he said.


A RARE ANNIVERSARY

Less than 2 percent of U.S. businesses make it to their 100th anniversary, said Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association.


The number is higher for banks—about one-third of Wisconsin banks have been around at least a century—but making it to 125 years still is an impressive milestone, he said.


“You’re looking at a bank that has witnessed the best and worst in American history, whether it’s political or economic,” he said. “That’s an impressive feat.”


The Bank of Milton started with 19 men and $27,000 in 1884, according to a special publication created for the bank’s 100th anniversary. Today, it has about $68 million in assets, President Dan Honold said.


It has survived the Great Depression, two world wars and many changes in Rock County. It moved to a new building next to the old one in 1972 and opened an Edgerton branch in 1998.


And it’s not going away any time soon, Honold said.


“I see us lasting for another 25, 50, 100 years,” he said.



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