Letters From Leton: Big Licks!

This time of year we often hear the term, “a Big Lick”! That often comes to mind when watching a football game and a huge tackle happens.

I think about Big Licks when I reminisce about the very large lollipops that my Great Aunt gave me and my sisters at Christmas time.

In the 1880s, there was a very small community called Big Lick. They learned that a railroad would be coming through the general region. The small community of Big Lick put forth a herculean effort to have the railroad come and place the tracks and a station in their community

They raised $10,000.00 (lot of money for the time) as a cash incentive. They had folks in the entire community write letters to the Railroad Company stating their interest and support to do whatever they could to support the Company.

Based on this progressive effort for its time, the Railroad came to the community and another Railroad shortly followed.

The community decided it needed a better name and changed it from Big Lick to Roanoke, Virginia. Roanoke became a bustling city with headquarters to a major railroad, large banks, and other regional legal, accounting, and retail firms.

Fast forward to the 1970s.

Piedmont Airlines was looking to establish a Hub for their airlines. Discussion ensued of building a new airport between Roanoke and Lynchburg.

Perhaps the communities were happy with what they had, and instead of a repeat community effort akin to the 1880s, the new airport project fizzled. Piedmont Airlines chose Charlotte, NC, and the rest is history.

Roanoke subsequently lost its railroad headquarters, the big banks were bought out, and while Roanoke remains a lovely city, economic growth has not been robust (especially compared to Charlotte).

Can you imagine if Roanoke (and Lynchburg) had the vision to develop the airport, and Piedmont had located there instead of Charlotte?

As one looks around our region, at the Banking industry, one thinks about how much we all “look backwards at successes” versus putting forth efforts for the future. We see this in terms of diminished Coal and Tobacco industries and the lack of successful planning and actions to diversify our economy.

Every day we have the opportunity to look to the future, to adapt to changes, to use change to benefit us versus lamenting the work and efforts needed to change to compete.

We need to make “Big Licks” work for us and put forth the efforts to secure our future.

– Leton

“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.