John Diersen Joins Board of Directors

DiersenJohnWell-known local Dairy Farmer John Diersen has been appointed to the Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove Advisory Board of Directors, according to Matt Schuldt, President for Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove.

“John is a valuable addition to the Board. He brings us a lot of knowledge about farming and the ag community, especially the dairy industry,” Schuldt said. “Plus, he’s about improving the community. He and his family give a lot back and are a big part of our area.”

Diersen is looking forward to giving his time and knowledge to the Board.

“I want to be able to contribute to the Board, not just be someone sitting in a chair,” Diersen said. “I’ll be able to provide input as far as farming, helping to pinpoint what to look for when it comes to the business of agriculture.”

Diersen, 62, farms with his wife, Karyl, and two sons, Joshua and Jayson, at Minnigan Hills Farm outside of Caledonia. The farm has been in the family since John’s grandfather. Currently, they farm 500 acres and milk between 135 and 150 Holsteins. Diersen is involved in the embryo business with three other local dairymen in Four Cal Genetics. The Diersens have also been involved in the American Dairy Association for many years and take a lead role in the Houston County Fair. John is a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church and has served on the board of directors at the church.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Year to Shareholders and Re-elects Directors

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Rodney R. Nelson

WINONA, Minn. – Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) held its annual meeting Thursday, April 3, formally reporting 2013 income to shareholders and re-electing five members to the MFGI Board of Directors.

MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson reported that the organization is sound and continues to grow, recording $11,612,049 in net income in 2013. It was MFGI’s second best year in terms of income, following net income of $12,439,492 in 2012.

“It is good to share the good news with our shareholders,” Nelson said. “We look forward to continued success in 2014.”

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were David H. Keller, retired President Lucas Body Systems, NA, Richard T. Lommen, Jr., Owner/Operator, Courtesy Corporation, McDonald’s, Kenneth J. Mogren, retired President, Winona Agency, Inc., Bruce E. Ryan, Owner, Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc., and Peter W. Woodworth, Chairman, WKM Properties.

Nelson, Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat and Merchants Bank President and Chief Banking Officer Greg Evans were featured speakers.

Good for the Community…

When Pete Woodworth’s grandfather’s plane landed in Winona on a Sunday in 1943 at the then municipal airport, Walker Woodworth was met by three people, including Winona’s mayor, and the President of Merchants National Bank, J.R. Chappel.

By the time Woodworth left Winona the next day, Winona had a new business, the Winona Knitting Mills, and Merchants Bank had started a long-term relationship with the Woodworth family.

The relationship has grown. Walker’s son and Pete’s father, Les, was on the Merchants Bank Board of Directors for more than 20 years, and Pete has been a member of the Merchants Bank Board of Directors and the Merchants Financial Group Board of Directors since 1988.

By the Fall of 1943, the Winona Knitting Mills was up and running, and it ran for 57 years in the same location at 902 E. 2nd Street, expanding along the way. The building went from three stories and 8,000 square feet to more than six buildings and 175,000 square feet. By 1995 the company had grown to be the third largest men’s sweater manufacturer in the United States.

By late 1995, the Winona Knitting Mills merged with Hampshire Group Limited, the largest woman’s sweater manufacturer in the USA, and by 2002, Pete and his wife Joyce, had sold their interests, but there still was the issue of what to do with the property. Pete and Joyce converted the property into a professional business campus.

“We took the chance and developed it into a community resource,” Pete said.

The campus, which includes the main building that Walker first purchased, a warehouse, and four satellite buildings on eight acres, now has more than 40 tenants. The tenants are varied. The terms given the businesses are as varied as the types of businesses themselves, including graduated rates over time and phased in rental payments.

“We’re trying to make it easier for them to get up and running so the businesses are viable for the long-term,” Pete said. “It’s pragmatic. It’s good for them. It’s good for our family. It’s good for the community, and it’s good for Merchants Bank because many of these businesses are borrowing from the bank, and we’re borrowing from the bank.”

In 2004, Pete and Joyce gave WKM Properties to their children Nathan, Jacob and Lindsay. In 2009 Nathan took over running the business, which also includes a 7000 square foot building in downtown Winona, a 10,000 square foot building in Goodview and a 40,000 square foot building in Rochester.

“I’ve always liked tweaking and strengthening things, and this has been very satisfying,” Pete said. “We thought of it as planting something that would grow, something we could pass on to benefit Merchants Bank, the community and our family.”

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Leadership Leads to Opportunity

Tim Murphy sets the pace in Caledonia

Tim MurphyLeadership has led to opportunity in Caledonia as Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) Board Member Tim Murphy’s engagement in the community has opened doors for Merchants Bank.

Murphy, who is on the Caledonia Advisory Board of Directors, as well as the MFGI Board, has taken a leadership role in community projects since 1975. His involvement, along with the involvement of Merchants Bank and the employees of Merchants Bank in Caledonia, has contributed to making Caledonia a better place to live.

Murphy is on the Board of the 4 Seasons Community Center. The community center was built about 10 years ago with $1.2 million raised from community donations. The fundraising for the project was spearheaded by Merchants Bank leadership and Merchants was a significant donor.

“That’s a great accomplishment for a town of 2,700, and one that the town can take pride in achieving,” Murphy said, adding that the facility now runs on donations and rental fees.

Murphy has led the fundraising for a new $1.7 million swimming pool for Caledonia. Murphy wants to make the new pool happen without raising taxes to pay for the project.

At Murphy’s urging, Merchants took a lead in the pool project, pledging the first $25,000. By the end of 2012, the project had reached $1.1 million and Merchants had increased its pledge to $100,000. Murphy pointed out that these donations are in addition to the hours employees and other board members spend volunteering and supporting community organizations.

“The Bank is being recognized for its generosity, and the Bank has a history of community involvement. People see who is taking an interest,” Murphy said, adding that Merchants’ business model of local decision making is good thing for the Bank in Caledonia and the community.

Craig (Caledonia Bank President Craig Schroeder) has a real good understanding of what’s important in this community,” Murphy said.

Murphy has practiced law in Caledonia since becoming an attorney in 1975. A native of Blue Earth, Minn., Murphy said that practicing in a smaller town has had benefits for the Bank as well.

He also knows that you have to pay your dues, work hard and show people that you really care about them. He said that’s especially true in banking.

“I’m a firm believer that you get back what you put into something, and people see Merchants is putting its money and employee volunteer time into the community. That is important to them when they make their banking decisions,” Murphy said.

Planting Seeds; Growing Business

Ryan BruceIt was after a storm in the Spring of 2001 that Merchants Bank in Rochester President John Doyle asked his insurance agent for a referral for someone to repair the Green Meadows branch after it had been damaged in a storm.

The insurance agent suggested Bruce Ryan, owner of Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc. By 2003, Ryan was a member of the Winona Board of Directors and then later the Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Board of Directors.

“Bruce has an excellent reputation in the Rochester area,” Doyle said. “We are fortunate to have him as a friend, board member and customer.”

Ryan’s relationship with Merchants grew and soon he started referring Merchants to the people he knew. He understands that referrals can have a great impact, especially when those referrals are low-key.

“Being on the board, I know how good the bank is. How sound and secure it is. I like to spread the word, but I don’t do it in a direct manner,” Ryan said. “If the subject comes up, I’ll share information about the Bank and let them know if they’re interested in other options, that they should consider Merchants. When you do it that way, you get to plant the seed with a lot of people. Sometimes, It takes a while. I planted a seed six or seven years ago that’s just now beginning to grow.”

Ryan is involved in his community. He is the past President of the Ronald McDonald House, where he continues to volunteer. He also volunteers at Gift of Life Transplant House and Hiawatha Homes, which promotes independence and community involvement for those with disabilities. He is also involved in supporting other causes throughout the Rochester area and often sees members of Merchants’ staff at those same events.

“It’s great to be able to talk to others about the quality people who work at the Bank, and then those employees happen to be at the event and you can introduce them,” Ryan said.

Ryan looks at his Board involvement as part of being on a big team that includes staff and other Board members from across all Merchants’ locations. He said he likes to look at Merchants from a customer’s perspective and he’s proud of what he sees.

“I’m very, very happy with the level of service I receive and my experience as a customer,” Ryan said. “I know the people I refer to Merchants will be treated the same way.”

This story is an excerpt from our 2012 Annual Report. Click here to view the full Annual Report.