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Latest News / Enterprise of the year: Fourth-generation family bank Centier has spanned centuries, stood test of time

Enterprise of the year: Fourth-generation family bank Centier has spanned centuries, stood test of time

August 2, 2021

By Joseph S. Pete
NWI Times
Published Aug. 2, 2021

Henry Schrage, a German immigrant who was one of the first to settle the lakefront city of Whiting, established the community's first general store, helped arrange for Standard Oil to buy the land for its refinery, and started a bank in 1895 that would endure well into the 21st century.

Schrage started the Bank of Whiting at Center and 119th streets in the lakefront city with just $35,000 in capital. After taking $5,698.05 in deposits on its first day, it would grow to become Indiana's largest privately-owned bank, with $5.8 billion in assets and more than 900 employees at 60 branches across the state.

Now in its fourth generation of family leadership, with the fifth and sixth generations getting involved, Centier is the 2021 Northwest Indiana Business & Industry Hall of Fame Enterprise of the Year.

The Merrillville-based bank celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, making it one of the oldest continuously operating banks in Northwest Indiana. The coronavirus pandemic put a halt to planned festivities last year, but a belated gala for all bank employees, current and former, is slated for October.

The bank recently opened the Centier Museum in its branch on 119th Street in downtown Whiting to celebrate its lengthy and rich history.

"The 100th anniversary was certainly a big milestone and the 125th anniversary is a big milestone I've looked forward to," said President and CEO Michael Schrage, who started with the bank 49 years ago. The anniversary year "was disrupted like everything else, but I'm pleased to continue on to the 126th year. Our family is committed for generations to come."

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