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Michelle-GrossGross  A commitment to strengthening the identity and niche of community banks is a mainstay of Michelle Gross’s career.
   Gross is a big believer in community banks and the difference they make. There must be a viable environment in which community banks can thrive in order to help those they serve with financial and charitable support.
   Her affiliation with the Illinois Bankers Association is a natural extension of Gross’ beliefs. The IBA is a full-service trade association dedicated to creating a positive business climate that benefits the entire banking industry and the communities it serves. Gross thinks highly of the IBA and its role as an advocate for community banks.
   The feeling is mutual. In 2013, the Illinois Bankers Association awarded its first-ever Volunteer of the Year Award to Gross as one of more than 220 volunteer bankers and associates who serve on one or more of the IBA’s committees.
   Gross’ relationship of service to the association spans more than a decade. She initially volunteered to serve on an IBA committee 13 years ago and has contributed her time ever since. Gross has been involved with the Future Leaders Alliance program and the annual Women in Banking conference for many years. A recent achievement is her nomination and acceptance of a position on the association’s board of directors.
   Gross has 16 years of job experience to draw from. She began as a computer operator then progressed to information systems officer, loan officer, vice president and today she is the executive vice president, chief operating officer and information systems officer at the State Bank of Bement, approximately 75 miles east of Springfield. Gross says she wears many hats for the organization but could not do her job without the fantastic group of people she works with. She is part of the executive management team and makes decisions on how to operate the bank; she is in charge of operations including bookkeeping, marketing, networks and computer systems; Gross is also a loan officer. Interacting with customers and fellow employees, and meeting customers’ needs, have always been the highlights of her job.
   Gross’s career didn’t begin in the banking world. She worked part time at the State Bank of Bement during breaks from Western Illinois University where she earned a double major in music education and finance. She enjoyed the customers and working with money but had a love for music that led her to teach instrumental and vocal music after graduation. After three years as a music teacher, Gross
learned of a job opening at the State Bank of Bement and decided to switch to a career in banking.  Her father worked at the bank and Gross recalled watching him interact with other bankers when she was growing up; she decided to follow a similar path.
   As a woman, Gross says she is proud to be in a management position and is pleased to see other women in leadership positions, too. Her attendance at the IBA’s Women in Banking conference is an ideal opportunity to network and help other women in the industry, she says.
   Gross graduated as president of her class from the Graduate School of Banking in Wisconsin last summer. Her extra time is spent working with the school district in Bement. As president of the Support Our Schools organization, Gross leads fundraising efforts throughout the year. She is a member of the Bement Area Chamber of Commerce and several economic development committees.
   Gross says the support she receives from her parents, her husband Rich, her son Connor and daughter Lauren is invaluable.