As Bangor Savings Bank embarks on a new summer, executives said they were optimistic about the future of the Bangor region’s economy, especially after a year in which the bank focused on lending to help businesses weather the worst health crisis in a century.
The bank issued an annual report on Monday, showcasing the extent to which it has expanded its presence in both Maine and New Hampshire over the past year, including through $ 35 million. merger with Damariscotta Bank & Trust, which has expanded its presence in the mid-coast.
Of the $ 2.94 billion in loans issued by the bank in fiscal 2021 (which ended March 31, 2021), about $ 600 million came in nearly 8,000 loans under the North New England Small Business Payroll Protection Program. It provided an additional $ 1.71 billion in home mortgages in response to rising sales and property prices in Maine.
The bank is especially proud of its PPP loans, a program established by the 2020 CARES Act signed by former President Donald Trump to help companies pay their employees amid the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bangor Savings Bank made nearly 1,000 of these loans after business owners who had trouble getting loans elsewhere were referred to a bank located in Bangor.
“It helped businesses cross over to the other side of the pandemic,” said CEO Bob Montgomery-Rice. “And now, as you can see, we are on the verge of that.”
As the number of vaccinations increases in the state, the first signs of economic recovery are emerging. Merchant and debit card transactions have returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to Montgomery-Rice and Chairman Bob Strong. Wage data shows employers are adding jobs, and the numbers do start to change in the spring.
Some indicators may take longer to move.
Demand for business loans is showing early signs of a resurgence, Montgomery-Rice said, but it will take longer to return to full strength. He said that such a lag is typical for the way out of any crisis – people want to be completely confident in the state of the economy before investing. Startups are also gaining traction, albeit more in southern Maine than in the Bangor area.
“I am optimistic about the number of people talking to our lenders,” said Montgomery-Rice, “because the loans just won’t come out tomorrow.”
In addition, the inability to find workers continues to be a major problem in the Bangor area and beyond, Montgomery-Rice said, as many of the bank’s clients view access to employees as a much more serious problem than access to money or a pandemic in general. …
Maine had one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic, allowing businesses to perform better than parts of the country more severely affected by COVID-19. And now he has one of the tallest vaccination rates in the country.
Of the bank’s more than 1,100 employees, 86 percent are vaccinated, Montgomery-Rice said. While he does not require employees to be vaccinated, he does offer to pay $ 500 to all employees who have vaccinated, a policy that Montgomery-Rice said has encouraged many employees.
That $ 500 is nothing compared to the money they save with fully vaccinated staff, Montgomery-Rice said. Less costs associated with pandemic protocols will be required, he said. It also reduces the risk of outbreaks in any of the bank’s 65 branches or four offices.
Most of the hundreds of employees based at the bank’s new waterfront headquarters on Bangor’s waterfront have returned to the office in recent months as mass vaccinations allow for something of a return to work before the pandemic.
For Montgomery-Rice and Strong, the waterfront campus project resulted in the bank investing in infrastructure, especially technology infrastructure, which was indispensable during the pandemic.
Everyone who worked at headquarters had a laptop when they were sent home in mid-March 2020, Strong notes. Devices coming soon from against the backdrop of significant nationwide demand.
While 700 worked from home, 40 or 50 remained on campus, interacting with each other while wearing masks. The large campus also made social distancing an easier task.
“I am fortunate to have made this investment,” said Montgomery-Rice.
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