As “Speaking on Business” enters its 21st year, it continues to show Zions Bank’s commitment to small business.
In February 1997, I began my employment at Zions Bank. One of the first people I met at the bank was a young, 65-year-old Fred Ball. Fred had recently retired as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, a position he held for 25 years.
Fred had been hired by then Zions Bank President and CEO Harris Simmons. In Fred’s own words, he was “not hired for (his) banking expertise,” he was hired for his contacts. And there was no one more connected than Fred Ball.
However, Fred also came to Zions Bank with another great asset. While at the Salt Lake Chamber, Fred co-hosted a Sunday afternoon show in the 1980s on KSL 5 TV called “Utah Business,” and later hosted a daily radio show called the “Metro Business Report.” His experience as “the voice of Utah business” led to the idea of a daily radio program telling the stories of Zions Bank’s business clients.
This was the beginning of Zions Bank’s “Speaking on Business,” which launched in early 1997. Over the past 20 years, my simple math tells me the program has highlighted something north of 7,000 businesses and now airs on 20 radio stations across Utah and Idaho.
It was nearly cut short two years after its inception. I vividly remember the day in 1999 when Fred Ball walked into my office and solemnly told me he had pancreatic cancer and was given a 3 percent chance to live three months.
“Well,” he said, “it looks like our run together is going to be short lived.”
Surgeons removed most of Fred’s pancreas, gall bladder, stomach and small intestine, and we all hoped and prayed for the best. He was hooked up to feeding and draining machines until his body learned to function again on its own. After more than six months, he was unhooked from the machines for four hours a day. During that time, Fred would hustle to the bank every day at 10 a.m. where he would work until 2 p.m. putting together the company features for “Speaking on Business.” He would then hurry back to the hospital to get hooked up again.
Miraculously, Fred returned to work for another decade and became one of my dearest friends. He was still going strong at the age of 78 when he was afflicted by another health calamity. It was at this time that he retired for good and stopped “speaking on business.”
Following Fred’s retirement, “Speaking on Business” continued with a temporary host until current host Chris Redgrave joined Zions Bank and took the reins of the program. Chris came on board following a 20-year career with the Bonneville Radio Group and has continued to grow and expand the program over the past six and a half years. (In this issue of Community, Tammy Walquist highlights the success of “Speaking on Business” as we celebrate its 20th anniversary.)
On Aug. 25, 2015, Fred Ball passed away, one month shy of his 83rd birthday. I visited him a few days prior to his passing. As I sat at his bedside, he reflected on his “blessed life” and talked of those he loved most. As our time together drew to a close he said, “I want to say it one more time.” “Say what, Fred?” I asked.
Then, as he had spoken on the radio when he retired on April 23, 2010, he said, “For the last time … for Zions Bank, I’m Fred Ball, I’m speaking on business.”
As “Speaking on Business” enters its 21st year, it continues to show Zions Bank’s commitment to small business. For me personally, it also represents the extension of the life of a close colleague and cherished friend. Enjoy the program.
Executive Vice President,
Corporate Marketing and Communications