The ABA Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking has announced the recipients of both the Bruning and Blanchfield Awards, the center’s premiere awards presented for the betterment of ag banking. Indiana banker Gene Miles will be honored with the Bruning Award and Barry Flinchbaugh of Manhattan, Kan., will be receiving the Blanchfield Award. Both awards will be presented at ABA National Agricultural Bankers Conference, Nov. 13-16 in Indianapolis.
Gene Miles is receiving the Bruning Award for his leadership and outstanding dedication to providing credit and financial guidance to farmers and businesses in rural America. He has been an agricultural banker for more than 35 years and is the president and chief executive officer of First Farmers Bank and Trust Company, based in Converse, Ind.
Miles has nurtured and grown First Farmers Bank and Trust Company through vision, foresight and old-fashioned values. Several years ago, recognizing that agricultural banking opportunities extended beyond state borders, he led a strategic decision to grow the bank through acquisitions into neighboring Illinois. The result was abundant growth: First Farmers Bank and Trust now employs nearly 400 people in Indiana and Illinois, and serves more than 50,000 clients, all while remaining headquartered in an Indiana town of less than 1,250 residents.
He attributes this success to customer service. “We can’t ‘out-technology’ the larger banks,” he says. “We compete by providing local service and by focusing on our communities.”
Miles’ banking career has touched on nearly every capacity within the institution, including commercial loan officer, compliance officer, investment officer, marketing officer and accounting officer. He also is deeply engaged in the community, with outreach including volunteer leadership positions with St. Vincent Hospital, the Miami County Community Foundation, the Northern Indiana Community Foundation and the Miami County Economic Development Committee.
An avid tennis buff, Miles also has been active with the U.S. Tennis Association, and the sport is a favorite pastime for his family, including his wife, Cheryl, and their three grown children. As a youth, he was raised on an Indiana corn, soybean and livestock farm, working alongside his father and grandfather. “It makes you feel grounded,” he says, “to know that your roots go back to Grandpa’s ground.”
Barry Flinchbaugh, PhD., recipient of the Blanchfield Award, is a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. The Blanchfield Award recognizes the contributions of a non-banker to the promotion of agricultural and rural banking.
Flinchbaugh also has been a long-time advocate for ag banking and ag bankers through his support for, and participation in, ABA’s National Agricultural Bankers Conference.