1St State Bank announces New Sharon branch expansion

1st State Bank’s New Sharon branch opened for business on Monday, Jan. 4. 1st State Bank employees shown above are Amara Mart, DeLaney DeZwarte, and James Walkup, branch manager.

1st State Bank in Lynnville has been a cornerstone financial institution serving the banking needs of the community since its inception in 1912. Over the years, their banking clientele has grown, as has its support of community organizations and events. Ninety-two years after opening in Lynnville, the bank opened a second branch in Sully in 2004. One decade later, the bank added three more branches in Agency, Brooklyn, and Grinnell with the acquisition of Patriot Bank in 2014. Now, after nearly a year of planning, 1st State Bank opened the doors of its sixth and newest branch in New Sharon on Monday, Jan. 4. The new branch is located at 102 South Main Street in the building that was previously occupied by US Bank.

1st State Bank President Steve Russell said the New Sharon branch will be a full-service bank open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. James Walkup, who has been with 1st State Bank for a decade, will transfer from the Lynnville branch to lead as the branch manager in New Sharon. Two familiar faces in the New Sharon community, Amara Mart and DeLaney DeZwarte, have been training for the last six weeks and will be serving New Sharon customers. To help with the opening and transition, Becca Miller from the Lynnville branch will also work at the New Sharon branch throughout the month of January.

Opening a 1st State Bank branch in New Sharon has been an idea and transaction brewing for a full year. In January 2020, 1st State Bank reached out to US Bank to see if there was interest in selling.

“We felt that New Sharon would be a great addition to our existing footprint, as we already had several customers from the area and due to the fact it was only 15 miles from Lynnville. We really like doing business in rural Iowa,” said Russell.

An agreement to purchase the building was completed in late February 2020, but then COVID-19 hit and put a temporary halt to those plans. At the start of the pandemic, US Bank delayed the closing of the sale since they were dealing with branch closures all over the country.

Despite the temporary halt, 1st State Bank stayed the course and patiently waited. After months of waiting, 1st State Bank finally received word in October that US Bank was ready to finalize the sale. The next steps required applying for new branch establishment with both the Iowa Division of Banking and the FDIC of Kansas City. Once regulatory approval was given, 1st State Bank moved forward with preparing for opening day of the new branch. A small facelift including new paint and carpet in the main area was completed for a fresh look, and employees were hired and started training. Most importantly, 1st State Bank made a commitment to the residents of and around New Sharon and expressed a desire to meet all of their banking needs following the lengthy absence of a strong and accessible financial institution within the community.

“I feel strongly that a bank has to be a leader in our small rural towns,” said Russell. “Without a strong bank in town, economic development and growth can be quite difficult. New Sharon is a vibrant community of nearly 1,300 people so the loss of the only bank in town would have been devastating.”

The bank’s opening under new ownership and leadership is a welcome addition to the small town’s square. When COVID-19 caused US Bank to close all of their branches to the public, residents of New Sharon and surrounding areas banking with US Bank were suddenly without in-house services. Scheduled appointments for banking could still be made, but the overall lack of such an important service was deeply felt. After Jan. 4, those banking needs will be met with a full-service bank with experienced staff present five days a week. In addition, 1st State Bank has a long-standing tradition of community commitment and support, which will prove to be beneficial to New Sharon. A special grand opening event is not on the calendar right now, but Russell hopes to welcome community members to an open house at the New Sharon branch when guidelines surrounding COVID-19 allow.

For over a century, 1st State Bank has been a strong leader for Lynnville and the surrounding communities. The expansion into New Sharon will mark the sixth branch 1st State Bank has added to its fleet, four of those opening in the last 10 years. Russell acknowledges the importance of a strong financial institution as well as its ability to grow.

“Banking is a very heavily regulated business, which adds a great deal of expenses to our bottom line. It is important we continually look at opportunities to grow the bank. We abide by the statement, ‘If you aren’t going forward, you are going backward,’” said Russell.

1st State Bank’s success in moving forward is made possible in part by its strong team of staff members.

“We are so fortunate to have staff that have numerous years of experience and are willing to dig in to get things done. We follow a vigorous hiring process to make sure each person we hire fits into our culture,” said Russell. 1st State Bank staff members have spent countless hours in the past year to ensure the New Sharon expansion goes smoothly, and everyone on staff is looking forward to this next pivotal move.

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