2003 was a year filled with anticipation while our nation's economy finally showed signs of economic recovery. Terror alerts vacillated from "red" to "orange," and Americans became accustomed to heightened security measures at airports, which in turn led to longer lines, more shoes lined up at the security gates and a need for greater sense of patience while traveling. Saddam Hussein was captured by United States military forces, and plans for the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC were unveiled. Americans have shown themselves to be a strong, resilient people.
Locally, the St. Peter community showed evidence of growth and expansion with the new residential developments Nicollet Meadows, Windsor Ponds, Apple Tree Village, Washington Terrace and additions to Welco and Pine Pointe Subdivisions. St. Peter's various forms of assisted living communities have flourished, meeting the needs of an aging population. Thus, residents no longer need to move to larger communities to find similar care.
The new hospital construction is on schedule to be completed August of 2004. St. Peter's new waste water treatment facility completed recently is state of the art and built to accommodate future expansion. The city's new generation plant opened this past year, providing the St. Peter community with greater electrical power capabilities and reserves.
A new manufacturing company, Exceed Packaging started business on the north end of town. Several new retail businesses have opened in St. Peter including Tune Town, The Tangled Skein, Big Time Entertainment, MJ Rose and Premiere Wireless. The St. Peter Schools hired Dr. Jeffrey Olson as the new superintendent, and Gustavus Adolphus College announced the appointment of the college's new president, Dr. James Peterson, former CEO of the Minnesota Science Museum.
On the agricultural front, 2003 was a very interesting year for area farmers. The planting generally progressed well with some delays due to wet fields. Early to mid-summer growing conditions were very good. However, late summer and fall were unusually dry and many area soybean fields were infested with aphids. Harvest brought generally very good to outstanding corn yields and below average soybean production due primarily to the late season dryness and insect pressure. The grain prices have moved significantly higher reflecting both strong demand and reduced production. Livestock producers were impacted by higher feed costs due to the increased grain prices and a relatively low average price for both hogs and milk. The cattle market was very strong and established record prices until the December BSE disease outbreak. Land prices have also increased significantly. Agricultural property is in high demand for both purchase and rental purposes.
Nicollet County Bank had a busy year with low interest rates prompting a high volume of refinancing - especially in the mortgage area. We introduced our Internet Banking and Online Bill Paying products and celebrated our 120th Anniversary! During our fall auto show and anniversary celebration we displayed old bank ads and photos of employees from the 1960's as well as old bank books and NCB memorabilia. (Times surely have changed!) Our Saints Club trip highlights included New Orleans and Biloxi, Chicago, a Mystery Trip and a November trip to Italy!
Though the year was challenging, Nicollet County Bank is proud to have achieved another Five-Star Bank Rating from Bauer Financial, Inc., an independent bank rating firm. Last December marked our bank's Five-Star designation for the 57th consecutive quarter, which earned us the distinction of "Exceptional Performance Banks" from the bank rating firm. We could not have achieved this distinction without our outstanding employees and our wonderful customers! Thank you for choosing us to assist you with all your banking needs.
Samuel B. Gault, President
Nicollet County Bank
St. Peter, Minnesota