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First Bank of Berne has deep roots in Adams County, dating back to 1891 when the financial institution was established in Berne.
And while its roots in Decatur are less deep, dating back "only" to 1995, the bank was honored Thursday night as the Decatur Chamber of Commerce's Large Business of 2011 during the chamber's annual membership dinner.
Presenting the award was Larry Isch, himself a 17-year bank employee and last year's winner of the chamber's Stephen Decatur Award. Now retired, Isch said the bank established its first branch in Decatur along 13th Street in 1995, and added another branch in 2002 on Monroe Street just east of downtown.
First Bank of Berne has been rated the No. 1 bank in the State of Indiana 10 out of the last 11 quarters since January of 2009. The bank's assets have grown from $387 million in 2005 to $436 million last year. And net income has more than doubled during that same time.
First Bank of Berne now has seven offices — in Berne, Bluffton, Decatur, Portland, and Van Wert — as well as a satellite location at Swiss Village Retirement Community in Berne.
Accepting the award was bank President Kent Liechty.
"When we came to Decatur (in 1995), we were welcomed with open arms," said Liechty. "And in 202 when we opened our second branch, it was the same."
He especially noted the strong relationship between the bank, its employees and members of the community that became strongly evident during the 2003 flood which ravaged Decatur. Liechty said when the bank's East Monroe Street branch was threatened by flood waters, "our employees were out sandbagging, and the local citizens came out and pitched in as well."
Liechty said the award bestowed on the bank Thursday evening by the chamber "is really a tribute to our employees. They're the reason we're glad we've made Decatur our home for the last 17 years. The culture and work ethic of Decatur aligns itself with the work ethic of our employees."
Small Business Award
Dan Evans, owner of Custom Car Care, accepted the Decatur Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Award during Thursday evening's annual dinner meeting.
Custom Car Care opened in September of 1973 and has always been a repair shop and vehicle sales business. From 1977 - 1989, the business sold new and used vehicles, and the last several years has sold year-old program cars with fewer miles.
The firm purchased the Schwartz Ford building in May of 2003 and expanded the repair shop and cleanup facilities.
Evans started in business at See Sharp Cars in a partnership. He has remained in business over 38 years and has been self-employed over 42 years. The business has supported many different organizations in the community for over 20 years.
"It's an honor to live in Adams County and Decatur," Evans said in accepting the award. "It's been a pleasure being part of Decatur, but I couldn't do it by myself. I have an outstanding group of employees who have helped make this possible."
Evan's newest venture in the community involved purchasing, along with a partner, the closed Villa Lanes bowling alley. It reopened in September 2011 and has been a asset to the community, chamber officials noted.