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Camden R. Fine

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Community Banks Are Worth Saving

Posted: 12/30/09 05:44 PM ET

The people of Bedford Falls were definitely on to something: Locally operated, hometown community banks are worth saving. Community banks can take the time to get to know you. They can make loans to the small businesses in your community that the larger banks won't touch. Their success depends on building and maintaining good relationships with their customers.

Community bankers are accountable--they have to be. Often they're dealing with their neighbors, the parents of their children's friends, the people they see every day during their personal and professional lives.

As the nation's voice for America's 8,000 community banks, we couldn't be happier that consumers are recognizing the benefits of locally run banks dedicated to the best interests of their customers and the overall economic health of their communities. And as the only national association that represents community banks exclusively, Independent Community Bankers of America continues to spread the word that community banks rely on common-sense practices, honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency.

All of this often comes with better rates and lower fees, and access to a real, live person who will take your calls or meet with you to help you plan how to achieve your financial goals.

But we are also leading efforts in Washington to encourage lawmakers to address the real and serious problems that too-big-to-fail megabanks and nonbanks have created. If the people of Bedford Falls really wanted to help the George Baileys out there today, they'd get in touch with their representatives and let them know they're fed up with bailing out the "Potter" big banks that caused all this chaos. They'd take all that energy born of frustration and turn to the Internet to voice their complaints.

There is a Web site, MyCommunityMyBank.org, that encourages consumers to get involved and send a message directly to members of Congress to hold the big banks accountable and end too-big-to-fail. The site provides an easy way for people to send a message in their own words. No scripts, no over-the-shoulder editing. Visitors are also welcome to post a video or a testimonial.

And while the Move Your Money site offers a sampling of community banks that might be near you, ICBA.org has a searchable database for our nearly 5,000 member banks.

ICBA and its members have been fighting hard against the giant bank and nonbank conglomerates this past year so that Main Street will never again have to bear the brunt of the reckless actions of those out-of-control and out-of-touch institutions on Wall Street.