Giving back: Is it in your company’s DNA?

“If you want to see a city or town succeed, everyone has to pitch in,” says Jeff Williamson, vice president of Star Bank – Eden Prairie.

That’s often viewed as a recipe for successful small towns, but it applies just as well to cities and suburbs.

Williamson (pictured above) should know. He’s from a small town in New Jersey, has spent years living in and working in suburban Eden Prairie, and leads a bank that’s trying to bridge both community types – the close-knit culture and welcoming nature of a small-town and the hustle and bustle of a large city.

Whether it is support of local organizations – including the Foundation – through the bank’s community meeting room, or longtime dedication to the work of the American Red Cross, Star Bank – Eden Prairie is practicing charity, and in fact is among a growing number of businesses dedicated to “giving back.”

Sometimes that community support bubbles up from employees. C.H. Robinson, for example, favors causes that are brought to the company’s attention by its workforce.

Other times the community giving grows from the top down, as in the case of Star Bank. Its president, CEO, and board chair is Harry Wahlquist, who has decades of involvement with the Red Cross.

A lot depends on a company’s culture.

“I think giving is either in your DNA or not in your DNA,” Williamson says, adding that some businesses simply feel they have the responsibility to support the communities where they operate.

Support of the Foundation and PROP, offering its community room to local organizations, and staff involvement in the chamber of commerce – these are just a few of the ways Star Bank’s DNA leads to a better Eden Prairie. “I wish we had more time and money to give,” says Williamson.

While the bank in 2010 brought a giving culture to Eden Prairie, its work was accelerated by Cindy Cofer Evert, whose Eden Prairie roots and marketing expertise helped lead to that community-room concept and the displays of Eden Prairie history and landscape that fill many of Star Bank’s walls.

Williamson said that approach has accentuated Star Bank’s desire to be a true community bank and has helped set it apart in a community with a large number of banking institutions.

It sounds like “giving back” isn’t just good for a community, but good for a business as well.

(If you lead a company that is interested in giving back to Eden Prairie, the Foundation can help. We have launched an expanded Partnership Program and we’d love to tell you about its features and benefits. Contact the executive director, Mark Weber, at mweber@epcommunityfoundation.org.)

Mark Weber About the Author Mark Weber has been the executive director of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation since October 2013. In this role, he enjoys meeting with Eden Prairie residents, and being an active member of the community. If you’d like to connect with Mark, call him at (952) 949-8499 or email him. You can also read Mark’s full biography.

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