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Treasury Halts Wasteful Presidential Coin Program
Staff Reports On: 05:28PM / Tuesday December 13, 2011
Taxpayers — and Crane & Co. — can sigh in relief that the unwanted and unloved dollar coin is kaput.

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday announced it has suspended the program.

Sen. Scott Brown, who with Sen. John Kerry pushed a bill earlier this year to end the program, said the move will save taxpayers at least $50 million.

"For decades, special interests have pushed the wasteful dollar-coin program on the American people," he said. "They readily admitted that Americans would only use dollar coins if the popular dollar bill was eliminated — a move that would have wiped out hundreds of Massachusetts jobs. I introduced legislation to stop the coin charade and President Obama's actions today will accomplish that goal."

More than a $1.4 billion in coins have been piling up in vaults, costing millions in storage for hard money Americans won't use. Banks have been returning some 40 percent of unused coins to the Federal Reserve. The program was to run through at least 2014 and honor every deceased president (they're only up to James Garfield); a limited number of coins will be produced for collectors.

Neal S. Wolin, deputy secretary of the Treasury, posted this on the Treasury page on Tuesday:

"One area where there's an additional opportunity to cut taxpayer costs is reducing the current surplus inventory of $1 coins. That's why we're announcing today that — effective immediately — the United States Mint is suspending the production of new Presidential $1 Coins for circulation."

That's good news for Crane in Dalton, the only maker of U.S. currency paper.

Common Good Finance Gets Google Grant
Staff Reports On: 05:39PM / Monday December 12, 2011
ASHFIELD, Mass. — The nonprofit Common Good Finance has received a more than a $100,000 a year in free advertising and other services through a Google Grant.

The organization is set to launch its R Credit initiative next year in Greenfield. The "R" in R Credits stands for "Regenerative, Revolutionary, and taking Responsibility" for the local economy.

"It combines features from successful alternative credit systems, adding technology innovations and procedures to ensure a secure, profitable experience for everyone," said William Spademan, president of Common Good Finance, in a statement.

The system is somewhat similar to Berkshares in that it promotes the use of local currency but is designed to be far more reaching in terms of democratic participation in its uses and equal exchange with dollars. 

More information: or call 413-628-3336.

NBT Will Open in Former Lenox Legacy Branch
On: 04:17PM / Friday December 09, 2011
LENOX, Mass. — NBT Bank will open a fifth location in Berkshire County at 2 Holmes Road.

This new location follows the recent opening of four branches in Great Barrington, Lee, North Adams and Pittsfield. Renovations at the former Legacy Banks facility on Holmes Road are currently under way. It is anticipated that the new branch will open in the first quarter of 2012 and will offer full branch-banking capabilities, including drive-up teller service, 24-hour ATM, safe deposit boxes and night depository.

"We are excited to be expanding our presence in Berkshire County," said NBT Bank Commercial Banking President Jeffrey Levy. "The recent hiring of Daniel Kinney as Massachusetts area manager and the opening of this new office in Lenox provides individuals and businesses greater access to our unique brand of community banking and symbolizes our commitment to growth in western Massachusetts."

Levy is a member of NBT Bank's executive management team and also serves as regional president for the bank in the Capital Region of New York.

NBT Bank provides personal banking, asset management and business services. The independent community bank, based in Norwich, N.Y., has a total of 93 offices in upstate New York, Vermont and Western Massachusetts. NBT Bank's parent company, NBT Bancorp Inc., had assets of $5.5 billion as of Sept. 30, 2011.

Berkshire Hills Acquires Connecticut Bank
Staff Reports On: 01:45PM / Wednesday October 26, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. is acquiring Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. for about $30 million. The financial institutions announced on Tuesday they had signed a merger agreement.

Berkshire Hills is the area's largest local banking concern, with assets of more than $4 billion and more than 60 branches in Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. Connecticut Bank is valued at $283 million and operates eight offices in the Hartford area.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, 70 percent of the outstanding Connecticut shares will be exchanged for Berkshire shares at a fixed exchange ratio of 0.3810 Berkshire shares for each share of Connecticut. The remaining 30 percent of Connectict shares will be exchanged for cash in the amount of $8.25 per share.

This the latest round of mergers for Berkshire Bank's parent. Berkshire Hills merged with Legacy Banks last year.  (Four of Legacy's branches have been taken over by NBT Bank.)

Berkshire's President and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Daley said expanding into Connecticut has been a long-term goal.

"We will now have a total of 20 branches serving the Hartford/Springfield area, the second largest economic area in New England," he said. "CBT has built a solid franchise in the greater Hartford area, and this combination will provide more lending capacity and product diversity to this market. Like CBT, Berkshire has a local focus and a strong record of community involvement. Based on our demonstrated success in our other regional markets, we are well positioned to build our presence in Hartford."

Consummation of the agreement is subject to the approval of CBT's shareholders, as well as state and federal regulatory agencies. The merger is expected to be completed early in the second quarter of 2012.

Read the full press release on PRNewsWire.

MountainOne Building Rising at PEDA Park
Staff Reports On: 02:09PM / Thursday September 29, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The new MountainOne financial center is rising pretty quickly at the Stanley Business Park along East Street.  You can watch the action online via the "Stanleycam" at The $2 million building is expected to open in February.

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Bill Schmick separates the bull from the bears in his weekly columns on investing and market wrap-ups.

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