- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2000

B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. is decidedly casual for a banker.

Granted, the holidays are at hand, and the president and chief executive officer of Industrial Bank is taking a break from his office Christmas party to speak with The Washington Times.

But Mr. Mitchell's laid-back attire a sweater and slacks isn't all that sets him apart from his banking colleagues.

He's black. He's young, 38. And in a world of big, corporate financial institutions, he is one of a handful of local CEOs whose banks have remained in the same family for decades.

Mr. Mitchell has more than held his own. His business colleagues demonstrated their esteem earlier this month when they made him head of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

The D.C.-based bank's customers apparently approve of his operation as well. He has grown Industrial's assets from about $132 million in 1993 to $275 million this year. Black Enterprise magazine designated the bank as the fourth-largest minority-owned financial institution in 2000.

Mr. Mitchell says it is indeed a challenge for any small bank not just those that are minority-run to compete against large institutions, such as Bank of America and SunTrust, in the local market.

Like many small- and medium-sized bank CEOs, he attributes Industrial's success to personal service.

"We try to make people feel like they're more than just a number," he says.

That personal touch arises both from the bank's size and its family atmosphere. Mr. Mitchell's grandfather founded the bank, his father ran it for nearly 40 years, and his sister now works there with him.

Family affair

Jessie H. Mitchell, a real estate salesman, had trouble getting financing for his minority clients. In 1934, he figured out a way to offer them financing himself start Industrial Bank.

His son, B. Doyle Mitchell, took over control of the company in 1955 upon his father's death, and ran it for nearly 40 years, until his death.

Enter the youngest Mitchell, B. Doyle Jr., who came to the president's seat in 1993.

Mr. Mitchell started working for his father at the age of 16. While other teen-agers took summer jobs at the local ice cream shop or hamburger joint, he worked his way up through bookkeeping and mail-room positions.

As a freshman at Rutgers, he was none too sure he wanted to enter the family business on a long-term basis. That changed at college.

"After I took my first economics class, something about that supply-and-demand chart got me," he says.

He was excited by the tenet upon which Industrial was based: The bank could both make a profit and fulfill a need in the community by serving an underserved population minorities.

"I thought if we could do well by doing good, we'd have the best of both worlds," he says.

His father didn't pressure him, but Mr. Mitchell returned from school to work at the bank full-time in a number of jobs accounting clerk, auditor, teller, real estate and consumer loan processor and finally commercial loan officer.

When his father passed away, Mr. Mitchell found himself running the bank. Though he'd worked there since high school, it wasn't quite what he expected.

"You get in there at a certain age and it takes a little while to get a certain amount of experience," he says.

"I faced a lot of challenges, just trying to mesh experience" of veteran employees and younger, creative workers.

He found to his relief that the board of directors and shareholders accepted and respected him immediately.

"They knew me, they watched me grow up," he says.

He did make changes, switching the bank from a District charter to a national in Maryland, and opening branches in Prince George's County. Industrial now has nine branches, two in the county and seven in the city.

The bank is also preparing to open branches in two Wal-Mart stores in Clinton and Waldorf.

Improving business here

A Washington native, Mr. Mitchell is pleased to see the direction the city has taken in the past few years.

But he doesn't hesitate to add that there is still room for improvement, and he's more than willing to push changes along as head of the chamber.

The organization has not yet formulated its 2001 agenda, but Mr. Mitchell says he will focus on increasing communication between the business community, the mayor's office and the D.C. Council.

"What we really want to do is be partners with them," he says.

He expects that improving communication will not be an easy task, since local politicians are not necessarily conditioned to turn to the business world for assistance.

He is optimistic about the effort, however, especially since the D.C. business climate has progressed since Mayor Anthony A. Williams took office two years ago.

Mr. Mitchell recalls a comment Mr. Williams made about the District being open for business. "The problem is putting it into practice," he says.

He says the business world is not looking to change policy, but rather to be involved in the details of implementing legislation.

He cited the example of the widespread street cuts that were the bane of area drivers last year. The cuts were made to lay telecommunications cable and angered businesses that had trouble getting around.

"Those are the kinds of things that we want to be at the table for," Mr. Mitchell says.

Those impending challenges notwithstanding, Mr. Mitchell is caught up in the momentum surrounding the District's touted rebirth.

The economy seems to be faltering, but he thinks the city might be insulated because of the level of enthusiasm surrounding revitalization here.

He cites projects such as the new Metro Red line stop at New York Avenue and the convention center as signs that growth in the District isn't stopping anytime soon.

Besides his duties with the chamber and his position at the bank, Mr. Mitchell has another hat to wear father and husband. One of his goals for the new year is to spend more time with his wife and three children.

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