From a small, single-room wooden structure in the tiny town of Arnegard to the 21 brick and glass-encased multi-story buildings that dot the landscape of three states, First International Bank and Trust has come along way in a century.
"I think our growth comes from our belief in the communities we serve," said bank president John Drady. "The bank believes in giving back and I believe people realize that we are not here just to make money, but are here to participate in the the people and the community."
With the investment in the community has come investment in the bank.
Since the first dollar was deposited in 1910, First International Bank and Trust has grown into a $1 billion institution built on the expansion of physical locations and services as well as the intangibles of technology and relationship building in the communities they serve.
First International Bank and Trust began humbly on May 1, 1910, as Farmer's State Bank of Arnegard, North Dakota by brothers Gerhard and Odin Stenehjem.
When Watford City was named the county seat of McKenzie County in 1934, the bank relocated to Watford where its headquarters remains today and changed its name to First International Bank. Although a large portion of the nation's banks succumbed to the pressures of the Great Depression, First International Bank survived the only one to do so in Watford City during the 1930s.
In an ode to Willy Wonka, who awarded five lucky golden ticket-holding children with a tour of his chocolate factory, the Stenehjem family is giving away 5,000 candy bars and a new car to celebrate First International Bank and Trust's 100th birthday.
"We struggled with the idea. Is it the right thing to do with so many people struggling?" said president John Drady. "We wanted to celebrate our 100 years so we came up with an idea that would not only promote the bank but also the local economy."
Although each of the bank's 21 office locations will be holding their own celebration throughout May, the Minot area celebration will take place at the Broadway location on Friday, May 21, during an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A total of 5,000 candy bars 21 containing a golden ticket will be given away to the public during the various celebration events held at the different branch locations. Those who get a candy bar containing a golden ticket will be put into a drawing for a new car.
The drawing for the car will take place on July 13 and the owner of the winning ticket must be present at the location where they received the ticket. The winner will then have the opportunity to purchase a new car up to $25,000 from an approved car dealership in the immediate area.
The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Activities for the celebration include lunch, cake and ice cream, rootbeer floats, special guest speakers and appearances by Miss Teen North Dakota and various animated characters.
Following 50 years of slow, steady growth, the bank has seen an explosive expansion over the last 30 years with the acquisition of First National Bank in Fessenden in the 1980s, Midwest Federal Savings and Loan and the addition of Trust powers in the 1990s, and the building and acquiring of offices throughout North Dakota, Minnesota and Arizona throughout the 2000s.
Today, First International Bank & Trust is a full-service, independent community bank owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Stenehjem family.
Since Drady began with the institution 16 years ago, he has witnessed the bank grow from $300 million in assets to $1 billion, a feat reached in January.
As with nearly all other realms of society, he said technological advances in recent decades has transformed the way banks are able to reach out to and serve their customers.
"Online banking and other technology has enabled us to serve a wider area in a shorter amount of time," he said. "We have all the services of a Wells Fargo, but we have the small town feel. People know your name when you walk through the door."
As the bank reflects on its 100-year history, officials are also contemplating the present and looking ahead to the future.
"This is a family, community bank that has been owned by one family for four generations, which I think goes a long way to show the bank's character. We hope to see continued expansion in the near future as we focus on North Dakota and Minnesota even as we face uncertainty," Drady said, alluding to the most recent financial reform bill circulating through Congress. "Reform has always happened in our industry. It's an important aspect that helps safeguard customers, but if it becomes overburdensome it actually ends up hurting the customers. Right now it's just a wait and see deal."