Branch banks in Mason City, Oconto to close

Some decisions are never easy, and when those decisions impact a small rural community, those decisions become excruciatingly difficult. Nebraska State Bank and Trust Company announced in a press release Tuesday that the bank’s branch offices in Mason City and Oconto would be closed, effective July 1, 2013. The decision to close these two branches was not entered into lightly, says Nebraska State Bank President Stuart Fox, and just to dispel any rumors, the bank does not have any intent to close any other branches. The increased trends toward Internet Banking, diminishing foot traffic and limited work force impacted the decision. “We are deeply saddened by these closings and plan to continue to support these communities through our charitable contributions and participation in their various events and projects,” said Fox. The bank has employees who live in those communities and that assures that those ties will be kept intact. NSB purchased the banks in Mason City and Oconto from Charles Devine in February 2008. Two years ago, the banks were transitioned into being open from full time to part time and are currently staffed by three employees, two in Mason City and one in Oconto. The second position in Oconto has gone unfilled for some time. The thought at the time was that when the branches were restructured to part time hours, more people would interested in working in their home communities and would apply for the open positions, but that didn’t prove to be true,” said Jamie Anderson. Current employees in Mason City and Oconto will be eligible to apply for positions within Nebraska State Bank and will be given priority for positions that match their skill sets, Anderson explained. The lack of traffic through the doors, and the difficulty in filling the jobs were two of the factors used in making the decision to close. “We know that this is going to inconvenience some people and we know that the closing of the branches will disproportionately impact the elderly the most. We also know that these communities have lost a lot of other services. We all hate it that they are closing,” said Fox, but it was a decision that needed to be made. A mailer went out to their customers last week and signs were posted in the banks last Thursday. “We wanted them to hear it from us first,” said Anderson, and they are already hearing back from their customers. “We’ve heard from a lot of people,” said Fox. “The question that keeps getting asked is what can they do? What can we do to change the fate of the community? The answer is ‘I don’t know.’ We delayed the closing as long as we could.” The bank will continue to serve their customers through their two Broken Bow locations and their branches in Callaway and Merna. Customers with deposits, checks and loan payments currently serviced by the closing branches will remain the same and can be accessed at any of their other locations or through their Free Internet Banking program. The Broken Bow East Branch location also offers extended hours of 7:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. in their drive-up; 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. for the lobby and 9 a.m. - noon on Saturdays. Final decisions have not been made as to what to do with the buildings. Nebraska State Bank and Trust is independently owned and locally managed. “The bank is strong,” said Fox. “Nebraska State Bank and Trust Company has been serving the residents of Custer County for over 96 years and will carry on our tradition of personalized customer service and community support.”