We’re All In It Together by Jon O’Connell
Local banks are more than checking accounts and loans. The pandemic makes that especially clear. In times of need, they step up to provide more meaningful support, and lift initiatives that showcase the region’s strength. A growing number of community banks are getting behind Boost Business NEPA, a vast collaboration that helps small businesses, the backbone of our local economy, face the economic downturn with more certainty. Their leaders know that if those small companies fail, the whole region goes with them.
Early supporters Fidelity Bank, FNCB Bank, Honesdale National Bank and PS Bank are all aiding Boost financially, helping to pay for the foundational stuff that any initiative needs, but also with their time and expertise. Sometimes more than cash, small business owners just need advice on what to do next. “It’s about the long run,” said Daniel Santaniello, President and Chief Executive Officer at Fidelity Bank. “We’re here to offer all the assistance that they need from a financial perspective, to be their trusted adviser.”
Boost began on a morning phone call with Helen Lavelle, a Marketing Executive and President of Lavelle Strategy Group, who is leading Boost. Santaniello called her to share his fear of the impending financial disaster and to swap ideas for softening the blow. Both are veterans in the local market and have worked together for years. “She banks here. She’s a vendor. She’s a perfect example of what a relationship looks like here at Fidelity Bank,” Santaniello said.
FNCB’s Chief Executive Officer Jerry Champi said he’s probably talked to his industry peers, his local competitors, more during this pandemic than ever before. At first they swapped staffing strategies, and talked about how to maintain service levels in the midst of the pandemic. Those conversations evolved. They discussed lending to potentially high-risk clients, those in the hospitality and dining sectors, upon whom the pandemic has leveled an unbalanced portion of pain. Now they’re getting behind Boost.
“It’s our community,” Champi said. “Helen and her team presented the opportunity, gave us the background.” His response was an unequivocal: “Let’s do it.” Bankers are using their purchasing power and their influence to keep the lights on in small shops, retailers and suppliers. Fidelity is buying personal protective equipment and office supplies from its small business clients, Santaniello said. Anthony J. Gabello, PS Bank’s chief executive officer said his bank is encouraging employees and neighbors to shop local.
“Our ultimate role as a community bank is to help the community keep their businesses open and to keep people on the payroll,” he said. Pandemic or not, a bank’s success hinges on the success of its customers, so they have a real reason to get behind projects like Boost and to treat their clients as partners, not customers, said Ron Sebastianelli, Vice President and Chief Lending Officer at Honesdale National Bank. “We don’t consider ourselves as selling products,” he said. “We consider ourselves as helping people.”
“Most small businesses are really struggling financially. With so many unknowns, it is hard for owners to plan for their future. Anything we at Boost can do to create a network of financial resources will be a great starting point.” – Sandy Cameli, CPA
SAC Empowerment, LLC, Dunmore
“Boost is a wonderful, new entity that meets the needs of many small businesses and nonprofits across the Pocono-Northeast. Its mission is to support and find solutions for these groups, which have been financially struck by the crisis of COVID-19. We use the minds and skills available from the collective leadership in this great region.”
– Howard Grossman, American Institute of Certified Planners, Wilkes-Barre
“One of the greatest attributes of Northeast Pennsylvania is the value placed on helping one another. Our region is adept at rising to the occasion when others in our community are in need. This is exemplified in the current efforts of the Boost Business initiative.”
– Michael Lombardo, Mayor, Pittston
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