From Animal House to Footloose, to A Few Good Men and countless movies and television shows in-between, Kevin Bacon has starred in approximately 80 films and programs that span a wide range of genres. On top of that he is a musician who, along with his brother Michael, formed a band called The Bacon Brothers that has already released six albums. But it was a 1994 interview with Premiere magazine regarding his role in the movie The River Wild that led to Bacon becoming a Hollywood icon. During that interview Bacon mentioned that he had worked with almost everyone in Hollywood, or someone who had worked with them. It was this interview that caught the attention of three students at Albright College who were inspired to create the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The idea of the game is that any actor or actress can be linked back to Bacon, whether through films they were in with him, or actors or actresses they have worked with who starred with Bacon. There is even a website called The Oracle of Bacon where you can enter the name of an actor or actress to see how they link back to Bacon and what their "Bacon Number" is.
We couldn't help but think about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game's relation to community banking. We're not talking about combing community banks for any employees who once acted in films or TV shows that can somehow be tied back to Bacon. Rather, the game just reminded us of the importance of having firsthand connections to the community in which a bank operates, especially among board members. One place where such ties are particularly important is economic development committees--groups that are almost always filled with key members of the community and high-profile business owners.
Economic development committees are frequently set up to lure new businesses to a specific community or geographic region, or to help strengthen existing businesses within that area. In many cases, economic development committees are established as part of an effort to help revive depressed communities with poor economies where businesses have either failed or moved out of the area. To do this, economic development committee board members work closely with local boards and their elected members, along with key individuals at state agencies, utility companies and even federal programs focused on improving depressed areas. The campaigns they launch to try and attract business to a struggling area also tend to be quite aggressive, including everything from meetings with other community organizations such as chambers of commerce, to television, radio and even newspaper advertising campaigns that tout the benefits of shopping in and supporting the local community.
For community banks where board members or senior employees serve on committees like these, such connections can mean potential new business. Depending on the town or geographic region business opportunity can be significant, which is why so many community bankers we know encourage staff to join local charities, committees and nonprofit organizations.
Our hats are off to all community bankers who proactively support their community day in and day out. Not everyone may notice, but we do and you all do very fine work out there that cannot be easily replaced. As Kevin Bacon can clearly attest, the importance of connections cannot be overemphasized. By the way, Facebook did some updated research on degrees of separation and found that people are actually only separated by an average of 3.57 degrees.