As not only the Mayor of Marquand, but as a Civic Leader who has dedicated most of his adult life to the preservation, revitalization and promotion of the community I love so dearly, I submit this opinion…
As with all communities, Marquand is no Utopia… never was, and never will be. However, it is rife with history, laden with natural beauty, and filled with individuals who see its value as a tourism resource for Madison County and the state of Missouri. Over the past 30 years, the community has celebrated many victories in progress for a city with a population of a little over 200 people, and we’ve had lots of cheerleaders throughout the county and state to help us along the way. From a community that was so severely economically depressed that it looked hopeless, today, after years of investment and reinvestment, Marquand is once again proud, stable, and starting to come to life again. This hasn’t been an easy road, nor has progress come without the dedication, devotion and financial support of many individuals.
Throughout the years, I found myself asking “what does it take to make a community strong – vital – successful. My answers were always in line with the national opinion… 1.) Infrastructure, 2.) Community Leaders, 3.) Local Businesses, 4.) Employment opportunities (either within the community, or within a feasible driving distance), 5.) Pride in your Past, and a Vision for the Future, 6.) Curb Appeal, 7.) A Post Office, 8.) A School, 9.) A Grocery Store, 10.) A Service Station, 11.) and A BANK. If you have all of these components in place, you can meet all the basic needs for a sustainable community.
In 2013 one of these components disappeared from our community, leaving a void that is yet to be filled – a Bank. Sun Security sold the Marquand branch to Great Southern, and Marquand was assured that “You are in good hands,” as Great Southern is highly committed to the communities they serve. Well, in only a few short months, after showing signs of being progressive and interested in the future of Marquand, Great Southern announced that Marquand was not a “money maker” for them, and that it would be closing the branch. This would be the first time EVER in the community’s history that it did not have a bank. Letters were written to top officials, news media came out asking what the community would do without a banking facility, but to no avail. Great Southern was determined to close the doors, and in October of 2013, they did just that! Obviously, they bought it, they own it, and they have every right to do whatever they please with it, BUT in my opinion, this is NOT how one shows their commitment to meet the needs of the community they supposedly serve. What happened to all those broken promises and the reassurance that they were here for Marquand? Fallen to the wayside in lieu of the all mighty bottom line, I guess?
Now, I understand bottom lines, and the need to make money in order to justify one’s investment, but when you have thrown in the towel and made it very clear that your doors are closed for good, and put your building up for sale in order to recoup part of the poor investment you feel you’ve made, then why would you impose a stipulation in the selling contract that prohibits any other banking entity from operating a banking business in that structure for a minimum of two years? Is this because you’re concerned about the banking needs of the community you abandoned? Is this a commitment to support the revitalization efforts one small community has made? Or, is this a business ploy to prohibit the community from rebounding from this loss, and making strides to continue their progress? A strategy to make sure that those who moved their accounts to Great Southern, and have remained there because they have no choice, cannot pull their support to help the community develop a partnership with another banking entity that IS willing to move into Marquand and help the community continue to grow and thrive? As readers, I’ll let you decide. Perhaps I don’t have all the facts? If not, I certainly welcome a response from Great Southern explaining their motives and position.
In the meantime, I don’t think Marquand should sit still and be held hostage by the uncaring, unconcerned conglomerate Great Southern apparently is. I think we, as a community, should push forward and solicit another banking entity to invest in our budding tourist community. Who says that location on Whitener Street is the only place a bank can operate? So, sit on your asset Great Southern, and when the building is undesirable to anyone, including another viable banking entity who sees the need and potential we have, then what will you do with it?