U.S. Bank St. Louis market president Joe Imbs

Last year, local U.S. Bank employees gathered downtown at Soldiers Memorial for a day of service, cleaning up trash, weeding out overgrown vegetation and planting new flowers throughout the grounds. It is just one way in which the bank contributes to the community from the top down, says St. Louis market president Joe Imbs. “Giving back is really part of our DNA at U.S. Bank, both here and across our entire footprint.”

The company focuses its giving with a five-pronged approach that is replicated throughout all of its markets. Through the U.S. Bancorp Foundation, individual business lines’ budgets, sponsorships, the Community Development Corporation and employee efforts, the bank makes significant contributions locally. “We live here, so we want to make it a great place,” Imbs says.

The Foundation provides grants to a variety of charitable organizations, and each market relies on a board to review requests and determine the appropriate recipients. In 2011, the bank designated almost $2 million in charitable contributions—most of which was in grants from the Foundation—to groups, including the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, Gateway 180 and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

While primary charitable gifts are made through the Foundation, each business line in the St. Louis area has a budget it uses to aid organizations to which employees have connections. In addition, sponsorships support well-known events like the fireworks at Fair St. Louis (co-sponsored with Enterprise Rent-A-Car) and one of the annual performances at The Muny. “Those contributions make a big difference because without support from U.S. Bank and other local companies, wonderful treasures in the community, like the Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and worthwhile organizations, like the Boy Scouts and Catholic Charities, would have difficultly surviving, especially in this economy,” Imbs explains.

With the national headquarters of U.S. Bank’s Community Development Corporation (CDC) located in St. Louis, it is natural that it is heavily involved in local projects. Last year, the CDC and other divisions of the bank made $123 million in investments for affordable housing, historical projects, new market opportunities and renewable energy. The bank has contributed to developments along downtown’s Washington Avenue, at the Old Post Office and St. Louis Centre through the CDC. The bank also extended $54 million in low-interest loans for affordable housing in 2011.

One of the main focuses of U.S. Bank’s community initiatives lies with veterans. The Foundation has provided the Veteran’s Business Resource Center a grant for its small business training program, while the bank recruits members of the military for employment, as well, Imbs notes. “We do as much as we can to encourage and support our troops and those who have served our country.”

Last year’s Soldiers Memorial clean-up was part of that effort, in partnership with The Mission Continues, an organization for veterans, active-duty military and civilian volunteers. The event was coordinated by the St. Louis U.S. Bank Development Network, which organizes participation for employees in a variety of events throughout the year, including the Komen Race for the Cure and Heart Walk.

St. Louis employees volunteered almost 7,200 hours at nonprofits last year, while a number of individuals also served on organizations’ boards. Part of that time comes from the eight hours a year that U.S. Bank allots its employees, asking them to volunteer at the organization of their choosing. “We encourage our employees to volunteer and provide sweat equity in the community,” says Imbs, who is actively involved with a host of groups and boards. “They’re engaged in those efforts and appreciate that we want to help them do that.”

Both corporate and individual efforts come together at U.S. Bank in a variety of ways, including the $1 million-plus contribution that it has made historically to the United Way of Greater St. Louis. While the bank is a clear presence in the community, it is always looking to expand and grow its involvement, Imbs says. “It never really ends. There always will be new causes popping up that we think we should get behind.”

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