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Youth are our succession plan

Housing and jobs, especially for our youth, are needed for a strong business climate in Southern Oregon, says People’s Bank president
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneJulia Beattie is the new president of People's Bank.

Editor's note: Community Builder is a periodic Q&A series providing perspectives from local people who have been involved in significant change in Southern Oregon. Today's conversation is with Julia Beattie, president of People’s Bank.

Q: Congratulations on being named the new president of People's Bank.

Julia: Thank you. Having the opportunity to be president of People's Bank is a huge honor, and I am very humbled. People's Bank was founded approximately 24 years ago. We've had the same president since the inception of the bank, Ken Trautman, who also serves as CEO. Being only the second president of the bank is a significant responsibility, and one I don't take lightly.

Q: Where did your interest in banking come from?

Julia: I have a strong heritage in community banking. My grandfather, along with five other gentlemen, established a bank in my hometown of Muenster, Texas, called Muenster State Bank. It opened in July of 1923. My grandfather served as president, as did my uncle and now my cousin, Robert. My father served on the board of the bank for several years. So, community banking has always been a very prominent piece of my life.

Q: What distinguishes community banking from general banking?

Julia: Support of the community, true support of the community. It is best exemplified by our effort to support local businesses. When a business comes to us with a loan request, sometimes we recognize their true need isn't what they originally thought it was. We want to be their advocate and creatively meet their needs. Another distinction is the commitment to the community in supporting civic and philanthropic efforts. A community bank really tries to search out opportunities and to be equitable in what they do for the community. Our effort on the Payroll Protection Program was a recent example of our commitment to the community. PPP loans were federal loans for small businesses provided during the COVID pandemic to keep employees paid and businesses afloat. Our bank did about 1,650 PPP loans in rounds one and two combined, totaling about $141 million. It was all hands on deck.

Q: What did it mean for businesses and nonprofits to have a PPP loan?

Julia: The PPP loans were critical for many local businesses to stay open and to continue to pay their employees. You don't want businesses to have to close because of a very serious, but relatively short-term problem. The stories are phenomenal. Without those PPP loans, businesses told us, "I could not have made it." Our local businesses and the community at large saw the impact of our bank and other local financial institutions working diligently in their interest.

Q: Tell us about how the bank rallied around victims from Almeda fire.

Julia: A couple days after the Almeda fire, Ken Trautman had the idea to reach out to our employees to see if they might be willing to donate a portion of their year-end bonus toward a fire relief effort. We had established a People's Bank of Commerce Foundation several years before, but we didn’t have a big enough corpus to start making donations to the community. The employees agreed and collectively donated about $215,000 to the foundation dedicated to fire relief. Within days, the bank made a $1 million donation to our foundation. Community members wanted to jump on board and donated another $180,000. Knowing that there was a huge need for immediate housing, we reached out to a few local hotels and arranged housing for fire victims. It was the employees' $215,000 donation that paid for that immediate housing. We've provided support to a couple of organizations, notably the Gateway Project in Talent, to provide essential funding for early permitting and initial rebuilding costs. We continue to look for opportunities to support intermediate and long-term housing for fire survivors.

Q: From your perspective, what's the business climate of Southern Oregon like? Is it promising?

Julia: We are in such a challenging time right now coming out of COVID. As a result of the PPP loans, we have been able to help a good number of businesses survive. Many of them are rebounding very well. I do believe that many businesses will be able to reestablish their financial footings and continue to succeed. So surprisingly, in spite of our challenges, the overall business climate is actually quite strong.

The strength of our local economy is based on the viability of our small businesses. We must continue to develop the infrastructure to support and grow local business. One such area is the need for workforce housing. We have a serious shortage of affordable homes. We also need to work with our state government to make Oregon a more business-friendly state. We need to send the message that Oregon is a business-friendly state, and right now we're not sending that message.

I think the business climate is promising. We have so much going for us in Southern Oregon. We just need to stay focused on removing barriers and fostering business growth.

Q: You've been involved in a variety of volunteer positions in the community with nonprofit organizations. Which one stands out?

Julia: I was invited to join the grants committee of the Gordon Elwood Foundation about 12 years ago, then I was asked to join the board of directors. The Gordon Elwood Foundation is a local philanthropic organization that supports the needs of the community in five Southern Oregon counties. It has been an eye-opener to learn the scope of the needs within our region. I had little understanding of the volume and magnitude of the barriers that can prevent people from achieving success. On the positive side, it’s quite inspiring to see the number of nonprofit organizations working incredibly hard to meet the needs of those that are disadvantaged.

Q: So how did a woman raised in a small town in Texas get to Southern Oregon?

Julia: My future husband, Brian, was completing his degree and he was interested in working in the helicopter industry. He reached out to Erickson Air Crane to inquire about a job. With a job offer and a degree in one hand and me in the other we got married and moved to Southern Oregon in 1992. It's been just phenomenal. I grew up in a military family of seven. My older siblings moved around a lot with my parents as part of their military life. Several of my brothers joined the military and moved frequently. I never would've thought that 30 years later we would still be here. Southern Oregon has been a beautiful place to raise our children and a delightful place for Brian and me to establish our lives. We didn't know anybody when we came. But together, we've created a very rewarding, beautiful life in Southern Oregon.

Q: What's clearer to you now?

Julia: Well, two things come to mind. One is that I believe we have great promise in our youth. The more I'm around our young people, the more I'm convinced that if we continue to support them, we've got a great succession plan for our generation. I know there are a lot of people who don't see some of the great things that are happening in our youth. Unfortunately, they see just what gets portrayed in the media. I recently visited my son at University of Arizona, and I met some of the most delightful young people; enthusiastic, happy, hardworking. The Central Point Rotary Club recognizes a student each month. It's just amazing the caliber of these young adults.

We have got to continue to make a concerted effort to address the needs of those who are less fortunate. I reflect on my time growing up in Muenster. Given the concept of “it takes a village,” we had such a village. When I was a teenager, there were several in our community with disabilities who needed assistance. Their parents took care of them, and everybody in town watched out for them. Currently, because families are so scattered and sometimes broken, that support might not exist. These special folks deserve to be supported and treated with respect and love. We need to provide more resources to help our disadvantaged citizens.

Q: What is important to you?

Julia: My husband, Brian, is my pillar and provides me with incredible support. Also important to me are my three dear children. Working outside the home while raising our three children was very challenging. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband and kids.

I’ve been thinking about traits of people that I admire. My mom is very wise. She raised seven kiddos. When my children were young I asked her, "What can I do as a mother to contribute to making my children good people?" She said, "Teach them the virtues of life." ... I have to admit that I needed to look up the virtues of life. I came across a book called “Teaching Your Children the 12 Essential Virtues of Life.” Two of those virtues that I value most are integrity and humility. My father is one who stands out for me as a man of high integrity and humility. Two other virtues that are top of my list are a strong work ethic and empathy. People I most admire possess those characteristics.

Steve Boyarsky is a retired educator and longtime resident of the Rogue Valley. He continues to be involved in educational and youth programs.

Julia Beattie bio

Julia Beattie has been in community banking in the Rogue Valley since moving from Texas in 1992.

She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Baylor University in 1984 and a MBA from the University of Texas in 1986.

In 1992 she joined Western Bank as a commercial lending officer, and in 2003 joined the commercial lending team of South Valley Bank and Trust. In 2013 she went to work for People’s Bank as a commercial lender and was promoted to chief lending officer in 2015. In 2020 she was promoted to president.

She has served on the board of a variety of organizations, serving as president of the Central Point Rotary Club, for which she has been a member for approximately 25 years. She is also a director for the Gordon Elwood Foundation and president of the People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation. She and her husband, Brian, have three adult children Audrey, 24, Elizabeth, 22, and John, 20. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, skiing and spending time with good friends drinking good wine.