June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Summit Bank thanks EWEB for supporting the local economy

6 min read
Stacy Koos: Summit Bank is the only bank headquartered right here in Eugene, and as a Eugene-based bank, EWEB’s $3 million that they have on deposit with us made a significant impact in our local economy.... we were able to lend those dollars back into this community, helping more than 30 Eugene businesses.

Public comment at the EWEB board meeting Dec. 5:

[00:00:05] Board President Sonya Carlson: Two people signed up to provide testimony, one caller and one in person. And we had, I think, six written testimonies in advance of the meeting…. And I will go to the telephone first and Mark Robinowitz.

[00:00:22] Mark Robinowitz: Hello. I wanted to call the board’s attention to the recent financial meltdown of the NuScale smaller nuclear reactor company. As you may know, they were planning to build new nukes at the Idaho National Engineering Lab, along with utilities in Utah, but the finances behind the project suffered a loss of coolant, I mean, loss of finances accident, and it has been canceled.

[00:00:53] It’s not the end of the smaller reactor concept, but it is a significant setback. While cost overruns are a concern with reactors, their synthesis of ultra-hazardous isotopes incompatible with life, that will remain dangerous for longer than civilization has existed, is the primary problem.

[00:01:15] You’re considering utility legislative priorities this evening. It’s worth remembering that EWEB was the only utility in Oregon to speak in favor of rescinding the 1980 citizens’ initiative to prohibit new nukes unless a national nuclear dump is someday built. EWEB isn’t the only pro-nuclear utility in the state, but it was the only one to submit testimony in a bill last winter to overturn existing law.

[00:01:45] In the current issue of The Nation magazine, there is an article titled, The Green New Deal is the Opiate of the Masses. And it makes the obvious yet unpalatable point that solar panels, electric cars, and other techno-fixes cannot sustain the unsustainable. Instead of hoping for green growth, we need to recognize that Earth is a sphere and not getting any bigger.

[00:02:13] And looming on the horizon is not mere natural limits, but political instability. One would be foolish to make predictions about the consequences of the war in Gaza. It’s obvious this could disrupt global energy shipments, perhaps more noticeably than in 1973 when only a few percent of global oil trade was disrupted.

[00:02:36] So we need to move beyond collective denial and bargaining, like pretending that new nukes is going to keep growth powered. We need radical honesty. But at this late day, it will probably be forced by circumstance, not preemptively chosen. Thanks for considering.

[00:02:57] Board President Sonya Carlson: Thank you. Next up, in the room we have Stacy Koos.

[00:03:00] Stacy Koos (Summit Bank): My name is Stacy Koos. I’m a resident of Ward 8. I’m also a Senior Vice President at Summit Bank, which is a commercial customer in Ward 1. And in reviewing this month’s agenda, we noticed that the local investment and banking relationships were being discussed tonight. And I wanted to take this time to say thank you to EWEB and the commissioners for supporting local banking and by depositing with Summit Bank.

[00:03:29] We wanted to not only express our sincere thank you but also wanted to share with you that now more than ever deposit dollars are so vital to community banks like Summit Bank as we continue to support the local economy. This year $3 trillion has been siphoned off community bank balance sheets, fleeing to national banks, government treasuries, and large wealth management firms.

[00:03:55] As deposit dollars continue to be funneled away, community banks in particular are impacted with the amount of dollars we have on deposit and available to lend out to small businesses in our area.

[00:04:08] Summit Bank is the only bank headquartered right here in Eugene, and as a Eugene-based bank, we were able to deploy EWEB’s $3 million that they have on deposit with us. That made us be able to make a significant impact in our local economy.

[00:04:27] Our average small business loans range between $50,000 and $100,000, which means with your help, we were able to lend those dollars back into this community, helping more than 30 Eugene businesses. Our commitment to Eugene is demonstrated every day with help from our depositors, and it is why it is so important for us to thank you for depositing with us.

[00:04:51] We would appreciate any consideration for additional monies that EWEB could direct to Summit Bank, keeping those dollars in this community.

[00:04:59] We are local. We employ 120 Eugene-area residents, many of whom are also EWEB customers. We are safe with FDIC insurance available up to $100 million through our CDARS and ICS accounts. And most importantly, we are committed to continuing our support of our local small businesses.

[00:05:22] So on behalf of Summit Bank and our employees, we just wanted to say thank you.

[00:05:27] Board President Sonya Carlson: That concludes our testimony, and now we’ve got time from commissioners. Thank you to both of the people who have testified this evening. I will say that we have spoken about public dollars for EWEB and have not had a local bank come and talk to us, so I really appreciate you coming out and letting us know that it makes an impact in the community. It’s wonderful to hear it firsthand and have real numbers for what the impact is. Thank you for doing that.

[00:05:56] John Q: The meeting packet included background on investment policy.

[00:06:01] EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson: As commissioners, the second item was a follow-up, I believe from Commissioner Barofsky, around local banking and our investments in local banking and the risks that local banking has relative to some of the larger banks and pressures from interest rates and other things, making local investments.

[00:06:23] It highlights some of the restrictions that we are under as well with some of the opportunities that we’ve taken advantage of over the last few years.

[00:06:30] John Q: At the October 3rd meeting:

[00:06:34] Commissioner John Barofsky: Thank you. Resolution 9 is a resolution approving the annual investment policies of the utility. The reason I asked to pull this was, this last weekend I was at a conference and was in a breakout session with an economist from ECONorthwest. He was talking about the economy of the Northwest, and, you know, interest rates and inflation rates, and all of these things. And it was actually very, he was very positive about where we’re going. He was saying interest rates, if you look at them over 75 years, they’re on average and inflation rates are on average.

The one area that he did say that we would be stressed in the coming years is community banking. Community banks in our areas are the banks that lend to local builders, small businesses, large businesses.

[00:07:38] And they’ve been challenged lately with what we’ve all seen, the higher interest rates on CDs (certificates of deposit) and bonds. People have been taking a lot of their savings out of those banks and putting them into higher-rate CDs, higher rates than the community banks can offer on their money market accounts and those type of things. It’s been a multibillion-dollar exodus of cash from these types of institutions.

So when I saw that the investment policies was on our consent calendar today, I’m not asking us to change anything in there, but what I would hope is that as a utility, we can look wherever we have funds that may be able to be put into some of our community banks and kept in our community here, to help local businesses and local individuals thrive.

I would hope that we can look at whatever accounts that we have that we could put in those. I know a lot of what is in there is very regulated, and I agree to that, but I think there might be some room for us to help some of these banks that may be facing issues going forward. So I just wanted to bring that up. I’m not putting forward a resolution or anything like that. I would just hope that staff can look into that and see if there is an opportunity for us to keep some of our money that we may be just sitting on, in a savings account, and if we have the ability to put that into a community bank rather than a T-bill or whatever, I would encourage us to do that.

[00:09:12] John Q: Commissioner Barofsky speaks up for the local community banks. Investment policy is restricted by state statutes, but EWEB staff said they will do what they can, and report to the board.

[00:09:23] Check our library of local government documents for the full reports and written correspondence.

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