Chamber honors Northwest Savings

Susan Williams (center), executive director of the Venango Area  Chamber of Commerce stands with Lance Titus (left) of Northwest Savings  Bank in Oil City and Chris Reber, executive dean of Venango Campus,  Wednesday morning in the Chamber offices on Main Street in Oil City.  Both Northwest Savings Bank and Venango Campus were named Venango Area  Chamber of Commerce 2010 businesses of the year. Susan Williams (center), executive director of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce stands with Lance Titus (left) of Northwest Savings Bank in Oil City and Chris Reber, executive dean of Clarion University-Venango Campus, Wednesday morning in the Chamber offices on Main Street in Oil City. Both Northwest Savings Bank and Venango Campus were named Venango Area Chamber of Commerce 2010 businesses of the year. The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce has named Northwest Savings Bank as its 2010 Business of the Year.

The bank will be recognized at a chamber mixer set for 5 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the Movies at Cranberry at the Cranberry Mall. It will serve as the kickoff for the annual Venango Works Trade Show the next day.

The chamber selects the Business of the Year based on active membership in the chamber, support for the community, reputation for customer service and reliability, major achievements in a given year, innovation, business leadership and excellence.

Susan Williams, executive director of the chamber, said the winner exemplifies “the traits that lead to success.”

“We’re all elated to be named business of the year,” said Lance Titus, manager of the Oil City North Side office of Northwest Savings. “Northwest has served Venango County for well over a century, and we do our very best to be a full-service, local community bank with personal, friendly service, convenience and fast, modern delivery. We thank our customers for their trust and their support.” By Jerry Sowden

Beth Harman, manager of the bank’s Cranberry office, pointed out that Northwest, a subsidiary of Northwest Bancshares Inc., continued its history of strong financial performance in 2009, a year when many financial institutions struggled.

Another honor

Early in the year, Forbes Magazine named Northwest Savings to its list as one of the 100 Most Trustworthy Companies in the country.

John Stiller, division vice president of commercial lending, said, “Forbes has an independent third party review all 12,000 publicly traded companies in the United States on a wide range of criteria, all linked to financial trust worthiness. Northwest was one of only 11 banks on the list. Also, our bank ranked first among savings banks on the list and we were number one in all geographic markets, which include Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, New York, Maryland, and Florida.”

Bank expands

Northwest opened five new banking locations during the year, one in Youngsville, three near Rochester, N.Y., and one in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition, the bank merged with Keystone State Savings Bank near Pittsburgh. Northwest now operates 171 banking locations in five states.

Scott Ridgeway, who manages Northwest’s Pleasantville office, pointed out the bank serves Venango County from one location each in Cranberry, Franklin and Pleasantville as well as three in Oil City. It has 25 more bank offices in contiguous counties. He noted Northwest and its predecessors have served Venango County for more than 100 years.

Franchise grows

Northwest sold $688 million of its common stock in a public offering in December to become 100 percent publicly owned. This additional capital will provide Northwest the opportunity to offer additional products and services and to continue to grow its franchise.

As part of its stock offering, Northwest established a charitable foundation to benefit the communities it serves and their residents.

“We’ve always supported our home towns,” said Ray Swacha, Venango County area manager of Northwest Savings Bank and manager of its Franklin office. “The foundation will allow us to do even more.”

‘Well capitalized’

Banks are continuously evaluated for safety and soundness based on the levels of capital that they maintain. Northwest Savings’ capital levels far exceed all state and federal regulatory requirements, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) considers Northwest to be “well capitalized.”

A second test of a bank’s stability is its profitability, especially during trying times. In this regard, Northwest remained profitable during 2009, a year of severe economic crisis in Venango County.

Ed Fennick, senior financial adviser, noted that, in a recent survey of the country’s 100 largest banks by Forbes, Northwest ranked 23rd best based on strength of capital, asset quality and profitability.

Appreciation shown

Titus summed up the award for all the workers at Northwest when he said, “Being noticed and complimented by Forbes is great, and making a profit, selling stock, being successful, well, that’s what business is all about…but to be named Business of the Year by the same folks you live and work beside..that’s an honor. We appreciate being named Business of the Year more than you can know. ”