Weather Forecast


Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank president in Willmar today

WILLMAR -- When the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce staff contacted Gary Stern to find out if he'd be willing to come to town as a guest speaker, they weren't sure he'd be available.

Stern, after all, is president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis.

"There's only six of them in the country and they don't go out to speak very often," said Ken Warner, president of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber.

But he sent an e-mail anyway.

"Lo and behold, we got a call back right away," Warner said.

Stern will speak at noon today at The Oaks at Eagle Creek on financial conditions and the economic outlook.

Tickets to the event, which is sponsored by the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber's Young Professionals group, are $20.

Stern has headed the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis since 1985. The bank, one of 12 Federal Reserve Banks in the U.S., is part of the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and portions of Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

As the nation's central bank, the Federal Reserve System is a key player in setting monetary policy and regulating the U.S. banking and financial industries.

Tracy Lundy, chairwoman of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber's Young Professionals group, said it's "really exciting" that a local audience will have the chance to hear Stern.

"I hope that people will get an insight into what the Federal Reserve does and maybe some perspective on the economy and what's happening," she said.

In "Too Big to Fail: The Hazards of Bank Bailouts," Stern and co-author Ron Feldman sounded a warning in 2004 that the United States needs to re-examine its policies about creditors' expectations if a large bank were to fail.

Stern, who recently announced his plans to retire this summer from the Federal Reserve, has advocated for many years against allowing banks to become too large.

As many of the nation's largest financial institutions began to sink last year under huge financial losses and asked for a bailout from the government, Stern's views turned out to be prescient.

He has continued to write and speak about bailouts and the banking industry. Last week he testified before the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs of the U.S. Senate about addressing the "too big to fail" issue of government protection for banks when they sustain a loss.

Warner said the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce has increased its emphasis this past year on educating members about the economy.

Stern's speech today "is just another one of those opportunities," Warner said. "I don't know if our community understands how big a deal this is."