Monday, June 11, 2012

Beer and Banking in Baltimore

I recently read a book about the history of the brewing industry in Baltimore. It's written by Rob Kasper, a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun, and is entitled " Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing". It chronicles the history from the 1800's, when the first generation of German's arrived to the the heyday of the 50's and 60's when local brewery's like Gunther's, American and, the king of the locals, National Bohemian, compete for the hearts and thirsts of the Baltimore natives. They supported the local sports franchises ands were active in their communities.

Unfortunately,as the 70's and 80's came, these local brews were bought up by the larger national players, all but eliminating this local industry. Interestingly, the last few years have brought about a resurgent of local craft breweries, like Heavy Seas, the Brewers Art, and Flying Dog Brewery, to name just a few. It's become a very dynamic and exciting time for the local beer lovers.

So what does this have to do with banking? The demise of the brewing industry almost mirrors that of the local banking industry. Such strong financial institutions like Union Trust Bank (one of the oldest banks in the US), Equitable Bank, Maryland National Bank and, most recently, Mercantile Bank and Provident Bank, were all gobbled up by the much larger regional and national players. Today, there are only a handful of banks actually headquartered in Baltimore City.

However, all is not lost. As with the brewing industry, there are a handful of local community banks that are filling a niche that the larger banks have abandoned. They are doing this by providing a more  personalized service and local decision making to support the unique needs of the local community. Let's hope that, like the local brewers. community banks can be a growth industry as well.