“What a long strange trip it has been” — those words are the sage words of the Grateful Dead. Those words aptly describe what all of us have gone through this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last nine months of 2020 were one long strange trip.
It goes without saying that nothing was ‘normal’ about the year 2020 with the cancellation of association events, banks’ lobby closures and the advent of huge federal relief programs. But, 2021 has brought us some hope that ’we’ are starting to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror.
In February, newly elected Montana Governor Greg Gianforte lifted Montana’s statewide mask mandate. This decision came on the heels of the CDC’s rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine plan.
In light of the lifting of gathering limit restrictions in Montana, the rollback of the statewide mask mandate and the progress being made on the vaccination of vulnerable populations and frontline workers, I am pleased to write the MIB Board has decided to move forward with the annual 2021 MIB Convention and Tradeshow as a live, in-person event. Recognizing that COVID-19 still presents a risk of danger to vulnerable populations and, as a result, that many of our members and associate members may not be comfortable with attending the event in person, the Board has voted to hold the convention as a hybrid event — with attendees being able to either participate in person or by remote means. Further, due to adequate spacing concerns, the Association has decided to cancel the gala dinner event, traditionally held on the Saturday night of the MIB convention. Therefore, our convention will run half a day shorter than our usual convention program length.
Even so, unlike 2020, the MIB convention will be held and our annual celebration of Montana’s community banking industry will proceed. As such, you will find within the pages of this edition of the Community Banker all of the great programs and presentations the Association has lined up for Billings in July. The MIB convention kicks off, as it always does, with the annual Opening Reception. The Reception and Mixer will be held on the evening of July 22nd. The convention will close after our annual member meeting and lunch on Saturday, July 24th, 2021.
A great lineup of speakers has been arranged for the convention. ICBA Chairman Robert Fischer has been invited to join us in the Treasure State this year. In addition, Dory Wiley will speak on the topic of succession planning. Bill Elliott will cover the timely topic of banking cannabis. Convention favorites Melanie Hall and Pat Barkey will be joining us once again.
The Friday recreational activities include:
- The annual golfing tournament, to be held at the Yegen Golf Course in Billings; and
- Trapshooting at the Billings Trap Club. The trapshooting activity proved to be a wildly popular activity when we first held it during our 2019 convention. The really good news about this activity is that no prior experience is required to participate in this fun activity.
MIB’s convention is known as the biggest little banking convention in the West. And that reputation is well earned. In light of the high quality of MIB’s education speakers, our conference events, and our fun activities, it’s easy to see why MIB’s annual tradeshow and convention is always rated highly by our attendees.
If you are interested in joining us either virtually or in person in 2021, you can quickly and conveniently register on the MIB web page. Just type in the following address into your web browser — mibonline.org/convention. On behalf of the MIB Board and the Association staff, we look forward to seeing you in Billings this coming July.
Although MIB is moving forward with its 2021 state convention, unfortunately, our national organization, ICBA was unable to hold its annual convention in person this year. But, COVID-19 did not stop ICBA from putting on quite a virtual convention event in March. The highlight of the ICBA convention, at least from this Montanan’s perspective, was the excellent PAC Auction, which was co-chaired by MIB board member Pete Johnson of Opportunity Bank. From all reports, the Auction and the ICBA virtual convention were a resounding success.
Turning to industry developments, MIB’s 2021 Montana legislative session lobbyist, Chris Puyear, has been hard at work on the Association’s behalf during the past few months. Chris has done a great job of keeping the MIB membership aware of the ‘comings, goings, and doings of the Montana legislative session through his weekly capital report, mailed out every Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. The session has generally been a quiet one for Montana’s community bankers, with the Division of Banking not running any of its own legislation this session. However, the MIB has been tracking bills related to the implementation of the recreational marijuana initiative, tax deed proceeds allocation, and lending preference for Montana-chartered institutions, among other things.
Speaking of the Legislature, let me extend my congratulations to MIB Board member Loren Brown for being picked by Governor Gianforte and confirmed by the Montana Senate to serve on the Montana State Banking Board. A well-deserved honor for MIB’s Board Secretary.
Finally, let me again express my appreciation for your continued membership and support of the MIB. MIB’s mission remains consistent and enduring — the mission simply is to be a Montana community banking association for Montana’s community banks. The membership dues you have paid in 2021 are a key financial resource by which MIB achieves its mission. On behalf of MIB’s Board and Officers, we look forward to seeing you in the Magic City in July to resume our annual festivities. In the meantime, be safe and be well.
James Brown, Esq.
MIB Executive Director