Words You Can Bank On

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari speaks to reporters at a press conference Wednesday April 19, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq. AP Photo/Ceerwan Aziz

Instead of finding stories as most reporters do, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman uses a highly sophisticated piece of newsgathering equipment: a dart. He asks a person on the street to throw a dart at a map to help him choose where he'll go next in search of a story. Once there, he picks a subject at random from the phone book. The premise is that "Everybody Has a Story." This time the dart throw took him to Teton County, Mont., where he met Craig Zwerneman.
Thirty-seven-year-old Zwerneman lives with his wife Janie, their son Trig, their daughter Ellie and their cat.

Zwerneman owns some fine art sculptures. And they tell the story of his greatest gamble.

"For me I knew the second that I started that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life," says Zwerneman.

His passion is bronze casting. An artist sends him a clay sculpture, and then Zwerneman makes it into bronze.

He opened the business six years ago investing most of his savings.

"And then when we wanted to advance, the dream was pulled away from us," he recalls.

When it got to the point that he needed to expand to survive, he went to a couple different banks asking for help, Zwerneman says. "Here we had a business plan, 1.5 to 2 inches thick, and they open it up to your financials," he says.

The banks don't "care about how you started, what you're doing, what you're providing and everything else. They never gave me a chance to fail. They were failing me before I even started," he explains.

Then more or less as a last resort, Zwerneman went to a little one-branch bank.
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Just as all the other banks did, it crunched the numbers and found the Zwernemans' loan to be an iffy proposition.

But then Dutton Bank did something unusual, especially in this day and age. It considered one other factor that you won't find on any line of any form at any bank in America.

"Character does count; reputation counts; family values count," says Peter Ekegren, a member of the bank board. "We do take those things into consideration."

By all accounts, Zwerneman is a real standup guy - the kind of person, who even when he was working six and a half days a week still wouldn't miss the important stuff such as seeing a pumpkin (his child) perform in the school play.

And that's at least partly why $180,000 later, Janie and Craig Zwerneman are back in business. Last month they moved into their new 4,000-square-foot foundry.

"I totally believe that those kids are going to do well. And if they don't, it won't be because they didn't try," Ekegren says.

"The only way tat this is going to fail is if they kick me out," Zwerneman says. "I will not walk; I will not walk away from it."

And around Montana at least those are still words you can bank on.

Hartman's next stop? Musselshell County, Mont.


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  • Tatiana Morales

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