From the Editor: Emphasis on ‘Community’

From the Editor: Emphasis on ‘Community’

Community banks are in an unenviable spot. They were tarred with the same regulatory brush as the financial giants whose greed and corruption were responsible for nearly destroying the global economy. And, as Valley News business writer John Lippman shows in this month’s cover story, they’re also subject to the same pressures — changing demographics, so-called “disruptive” technologies — that are roiling much of the rest of the economy.

Further, years of stagnant wages, not to mention a political environment that has made a fetish of attacking society’s institutions, has left many American workers cynical about — well, about almost everything, banks included. And a cynic, of course, is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. So, what’s the value of community banks?

In a word, they’re invaluable.

Sure, anyone can get a mortgage from some faceless online lender, and lots of small enterprises have turned to online fundraising tools for financing. But there’s so much more to getting a loan or starting a business than filling out a form and getting a check, and that’s where community banks come in. They know the local market. They provide guidance and education. They really want to see their communities succeed.

One example: Almost 30 years ago, Mascoma Savings Bank established a foundation that has since contributed nearly $4 million to area nonprofit organizations. The bank also directly supports nonprofit groups, and along with the foundation contributed $1 million in 2015.

Another example: Ledyard National Bank’s Leading Women program brings local businesswomen together to share ideas and information. The bank also sponsors the Upper Valley chapter of SCORE’s business education workshops. And, as part of its 25th anniversary last year, the bank donated more than $20,000 to five vital Upper Valley nonprofit organizations, including The Family Place and WISE.

A third example: Lake Sunapee Bank gives $500 scholarships, called Citizenship Awards, to graduating students from 23 Twin State high schools, including 12 in the Upper Valley. The bank has also supported the Hanover Improvement Society’s renovations to the Storrs Pond Recreation Area.

A final example: Claremont Savings Bank provides two well-equipped meeting rooms, one at its Claremont location and one in Springfield, Vt., that are available for free to nonprofit and civic organizations in Sullivan and Windsor counties. Its foundation, established in 2003, has donated nearly $1 million to local social service agencies and charities. And, when the city of Claremont decided to replace its recreation facilities, the bank donated land and $3 million toward the effort.

They’re called community banks for a reason. For lots of reasons, actually.

— Ernie Kohlsaat

Author: Ernie Kohlsaat

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