The attention that comes with being part of the President's hometown has compelled one bank in Hope, Ark., to reevaluate and upgrade its automated teller machine services.

Hope, a town with a population of 10.000, has three community banks and one savings and loan.

Up until last week, it was impossible to access a regional or national ATM network via any of the local cash machines.

Responding to Visitors

Flooded by requests from reporters, tourists, and other visitors, Citizens National Bank, a community bank in Hope with $70 million of assets, decided to take the initiative and accept shared-network cards.

"We're a small town, and a lot of people come here wanting to see the boyhood home of the President," said Kathy Struckman, vice president and cashier at Citizens National.

"They thought we were in the Dark Ages because our ATMs couldn't give them cash."

Tied into Texarkana

Ms. Struckman said local merchants and members of the chamber of commerce also expressed concern to Citizens bank officers about the lack of national ATM access.

Citizens National operates three ATMs - two in Hope and one in Texarkana, a town straddling the Arkansas-Texas border 30 miles from Hope.

To upgrade its ATM offering, Citizens signed a multi-year agreement with Affiliated Computer Services Inc., a Dallas-based company that offers off-premise network services.

The contract with Citizens National covers ATM driving, card management, and EFT processing. The contract gives the users of the bank's ATMs access to the Cirrus and Plus national networks, as well as the Pulse and Moneymaker regional Systems.

According to Jim Stewart, vice president at Affiliated Computer Services, it is becoming increasingly common for banks in rural communities to upgrade their ATM access.

"Hope isn't an isolated situation, "he said. "Many communities are discovering the importance of a network system."

In the coming months, Citizens will be launching a local advertising campaign to let everyone know about the ATMs.

Ms. Struckman said that although plans were in the works for print and radio advertisements, word of mouth about national access was already gaining momentum around town.

In just one week of operation, Ms. Struckman said, the bank can already see a difference in ATM usage.

"We evaluate our [transaction reports] at might and, already, visitors are using the system," she said. "But that's the purpose: to better serve all the people that are coming to see the President's hometown."

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