Biz Briefs: Berkshire Co-Op Market Accepts BerkShares 100 Percent
Share the wealth: On Friday, July 1, 2016, Berkshire Co-op Market began accepting BerkShares for 100 percent of any in-store purchase. This change in policy represents a major shift for Great Barrington’s cooperatively owned market because the Co-op had previously been accepting only 50 percent of any given purchase in BerkShares.
BerkShares are the local currency for Berkshire County. Citizens can exchange federal dollars for BerkShares at 16 branch offices of the following four local banks: Adams Community Bank, Lee Bank, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, and Salisbury Bank and Trust Company. At the bank, 95 cents will purchase 1 BerkShare. Citizens may then spend their currency at more than 400 participating businesses, all of which are locally owned. At participating businesses, 1 BerkShare may be spent as if it were 1 dollar. The circulation of BerkShares encourages money to remain within the region, building a greater affinity between the local business community and consumers.
Berkshire Co-op Market’s board of directors endorsed the change in policy, recognizing that BerkShares are a tool for community economic empowerment and education, and therefore in line with the Co-op’s belief that a stronger community will benefit us all. As part of the decision to accept 100% of any purchase in BerkShares, the Co-op will be developing ways to recirculate the local currency back through the local economy.
The winners are: Berkshire Bank has selected 30 high school seniors to receive a total of $45,000 in scholarships through its Berkshire Bank Foundation Scholarship Awards Program. Each of the recipients will receive $1,500.
A team of 200 Berkshire Bank employee volunteers reviewed nearly 300 applications to select the winners. The winners all reside in the regions served by Berkshire Bank, including communities in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
The Berkshire County recipients were all surprised with their scholarship awards in early May by Bank employees at their respective High Schools. This year’s recipients include: Joseph Sorrentino, Lee Middle and High School; Shane Biernacki, Mount Everett Regional High School; Krista VanCour, Mount Everett Regional High School; Justin Makuc, Mount Everett Regional High School; Sean Smith, Mount Everett Regional High School; and Hanna Ciepiela, Wahconah Regional High School
The scholarship awards recognize students that have exemplified community service through their volunteer efforts, have been successful academically and have a financial need. The program highlights the Foundation’s support for education and the Bank’s commitment to promote volunteerism in the community.
Weathering the storm: Simon Malls and Simon Premium Outlets across New England, including the Lee Premium Outlets, have been awarded the designations of being “StormReady” and ”Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors” by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.
The designations recognize Simon Malls and Simon Premium Outlets for their preparedness to handle all types of severe and potentially life-threatening weather situations through communications infrastructures, community outreach and hazardous weather training. Simon is the first REIT to achieve this status at all of its locations nationwide.
The National Weather Service’s StormReady program is a partnership with emergency management that helps reduce risk and increases community resilience to hazards.
Becoming one: Berkshire Hills Bancorp and First Choice Bank have signed a definitive merger agreement under which First Choice Bank will merge into Berkshire Bank and its subsidiary, First Choice Loan Services Inc., will become a subsidiary of Berkshire Bank in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $111.7 million.
Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $8.9 billion including the $1.1 billion in acquired First Choice assets. This market-expanding merger provides entry into attractive markets with strong demographics, and includes six branches near Princeton, N.J., and two in the greater Philadelphia area. First Choice reported $436 million in net loans (excluding loans held for sale) and $906 million in deposits as of March 31, 2016.
First Choice Bank is the second largest community bank by deposit market share in Mercer County, New Jersey, an area with per capita income well above national and regional averages. First Choice Loan Services is a leading residential retail and consumer direct mortgage originator serving borrowers across the United States. Total mortgage production in 2015 was $2.5 billion.
Berkshire will have a pro forma market cap of approximately $905 million and 101 branches, serving customers and communities across the Northeast.