2009 was a year inundated with challenges and adversity. Yet, as Winston Churchill said, "Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."
Who’d have thought that in 2009, we would be shocked by Somali Pirates attacking cruise ships or terrorists trying to blow up a plane with an underwear bomb? Many Americans saw huge losses in their retirement accounts, and the Federal deficit reached an all-time high of $1.42 trillion. The negativity has become tiresome, with many folks tuning out the news. Hollywood’s industry allowed us to escape our troubles with Avatar and American Idol while sports stars like Joe Mauer and Brett Favre created great positive distractions for us throughout these times. President Obama campaigned with “Hope for the Future,” and people have persevered. We learned about “Ponzi schemes” and fraud from Bernard Madoff, while conversely finding heroes in people like Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who safely landed a US Airway plane on the Hudson River after flocks of geese choked both plane engines. The vision of Captain “Sully” walking down the aisle of the plane after every person was off safely stirred hope for mankind as we redefined what a hero is today. Favre-mania swept Minnesota, and the local “good people award” went to Dave Neiman for helping out other St. Peter businesses during the months of downtown road construction. From TARP to Twitter, new names became familiar. H1N1 was the new flu to avoid, and “trillion” became a number heard too often with our government. In April, Al Franken was finally declared Minnesota’s winner in the U.S. Senate Race, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” In 2009 we said goodbye to pop star Michael Jackson, Senator Edward Kennedy, Paul Harvey, Bea Arthur, Walter Cronkite, and Farrah Fawcett among others. Layoffs continued and the national unemployment rate hit 10.2%--for the second time since WWII. Lending became more difficult, with new compliance changes inundating financial institutions, compensating for past negligence of some financial entities. Home values have plummeted across the nation, and people have been re-examining priorities-both financially and personally.
Action has replaced apathy. Town Hall meetings were well attended. President Obama acted immediately trying to slow our economic crisis. The new Tea Party made people take notice--that people are now becoming engaged in politics and life. Americans can be proud that we live in a nation where we can all stand up to be heard. We will not be punished, beheaded or silenced for voicing our opinions. This in itself is the wonderful gift of being a citizen of the United States of America.
Locally, Gustavus Adolphus College hosted its 45th Annual Nobel Conference on “Water, an Uncertain Resource.” The St. Peter Regional Treatment Center continued to become a more secure facility, with checkpoints for visitors. St. Peter was the recipient of $16.5 million federal stimulus monies for our re-construction of Highway 169 downtown. Our Chamber President Larry Haugen passed away, and after Marilyn Rundell served as interim president, the board hired new Chamber President Dan Kuchinka. The Dairy Queen completed an extensive remodel, and new businesses in town included: Clinical Review, River’s Edge Clinic, Mankato Chiropractic & Healing Touch River’s Edge, Steel Horse Restaurant, Synchronicity, Veterinary Pharmacy Corporation and Ty’s Automotive. Village Drug was sold to new owners, and unfortunately we saw some long-time businesses close. Building permits for new construction in St. Peter were only at seven for residential homes, but remodeling permits for residential and commercial properties totaled 216.
2009 was an interesting and unique year for agriculture in our area. The growing season began with nearly ideal conditions but the summer months were dry and cool. Accordingly, the crop was slow to mature which greatly increased harvest time and cost. October was wet and cold which further delayed combining. Fortunately, November was unusually warm and dry which provided a welcome opportunity for fall work. Crop input costs were at a relatively high level, but yields were generally above average (with some variation.) Grain prices were down from the peaks of 2008 but well above the average for most recent years. The livestock sector was significantly impacted by low market prices for both hogs and milk as well as experiencing feed costs that were above historical averages. Both industries encountered challenging cash flows but the outlook improved near year-end. We have continued to see strong demand for farm land to rent and to purchase.
Nicollet County Bank had another very good year! Our mission of “being here for the long run” has paid off during tough economic times. We have been fortunate to have outstanding employees, directors and customers! Joining me this year in celebrating 25 years working here at Nicollet County Bank are Jean Gansen and Jeanne Douglas. Over the years technology keeps changing. Remote Capture has been a popular product for our business customers, while check processing has become quicker and more efficient. Our computer banking has become more popular, and we try to keep customers updated with the latest happenings via our website at <http://www.nicolletcountybank.com>nicolletcountybank.com. Our Saints Club and Jr. Life Savers Club have both been growing! As we move into 2010, we have started a new advertising campaign called, “It Just Makes Sense.” Our safe, sound banking practices have served us well, and we hope we have served you well! Thank you for banking with us, “It Just Makes Sense!”
Samuel B. Gault, President
Nicollet County Bank
St. Peter, Minnesota