Waco Bank District

Waco Bank District members: 1. The First National Bank of Central Texas, 2. Independent Bank, 3. Central National Bank, 4. First Community Bank/Pioneer Bank, 5. Bank of America, 6. BBVA Compass Bank, 7. Wells Fargo, 8. Community Bank & Trust, 9. Texas First State Bank, 10. Alliance Bank.

Staff illustration — Chris Oliver

Bankers as a group aren’t best known for their sense of humor.

But who else could unleash an April Fool’s joke that, a full month later, results in the formation of a governing board of respected professionals and still manages to get laughs?

The Waco Bank District started with a press release April 1 announcing a group of bankers’ less than serious response to the nebulous designation of several downtown-area districts. Fittingly, the Bank District centers around another of Waco’s stranger features, a triangle of major roads formed by Valley Mills Drive, Bosque Boulevard and Lake Air Drive, where the member banks are clustered.

“It definitely started as a joke,” said Bryan Fonville, marketing director at Central National Bank. “But I’ve said all along that it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. Honestly, since we launched it we’ve had interest from other businesses that have expressed that this maybe should become a thing, and saying, ‘How do we become a part of the bank district?’ ”

Uncle Dan’s Barbecue, for one, has joined in with the district’s social media accounts, and a recent Bank District tweet promotes the restaurant. The district has posted about business and real estate news in its area and, on a different note, even gave some traffic news earlier this month.

With a picture of a worker directing traffic, a tweet reads, “Traffic signal repairs currently ongoing at Valley Mills & Wooded Acres. Expect traffic delays of approximately 20 seconds.”

Toaster video

The district also is following up on an early promise that its social media followers would be “randomly entered into drawings for free toasters,” a nod to banks of old that gave toasters to new account holders, said Fonville, the district’s spokesman.

The Waco Bank District is now “the premier banking district in all of Texas, and not just because it’s probably the only one,” Fonville said in a video promoting the first toaster giveaway. He then goes into a dramatic rundown of the toaster’s features, complete with punchy background music.

In a show of support for part of the Waco Cultural District, a more formal peer to the bankers’ effort, the Bank District social media accounts have also promoted a few Waco Civic Theatre performances, which Central National Bank sponsors.

“Fiona Bond, who successfully spearheaded Creative Waco’s recent bid to establish a state-recognized cultural district, is skeptical that bank officials followed correct protocol,” the district’s original April 1 press release states.

“You can’t just look around and say, ‘Yeah, there are a lot of banks around here. Let’s put together a map and call ourselves a district.’ It doesn’t quite work like that,” Bond said in the press release. “If it did, we’d already have multiple church districts in this city.”

Fonville said the group’s leaders admire Waco’s growth and business potential and that the district has fostered a visual identity for the area.

Dan Ingham, vice president of marketing and communications at The First National Bank of Central Texas, serves as the district’s president.

“I would think we’re joining in on the fun,” Ingham said of the proliferation of Waco districts. “Any of us that are involved in this community are excited about what’s happening in the Silo District downtown. You can’t help but be thrilled with that.”

Governing board

Ingham leads the five-member governing board that includes representatives from The First National Bank of Central Texas, Community Bank & Trust and Central National Bank.

So far, the district doesn’t include any credit unions.

“But, district representatives suggested this was because there are simply no nearby credit unions and that it ‘had nothing to do with the fact that credit unions don’t pay any federal income tax,’ ” the April 1 press release states.

Still, Fonville said, the district has a plan to move ahead. The upcoming expansion of the nearby Extraco Events Center should benefit the area, and the district will soon accept new members, even though the benefits of membership are unknown.

Some tangible goals include a district Snapchat filter, district T-shirts and hosting or sponsoring an event, he said.

“If it somehow ends up meaningfully supporting the local businesses and residents in this area, I’d think that would be a win,” Fonville said. “And, if we make people laugh along the way at the fake district that turned into a real district but still sort of acts like a fake district, then I think that just adds to the already unique spirit of Waco.”

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

Recommended for you