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MountainOne holds its 175th annual business meeting on Wednesday at Norad Mill.
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Jonathan Denmark, president and chief operating officer of MountainOne Insurance, update the gathering; the livestream to the Weathervane Golf Club can be seen at right.
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A children's book featuring the bank's 'spokesgoat' Mo debuts at the meeting.

MountainOne Marks 175 Years Since Founding

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Board Chairman Daniel Bosley calls the meeting to order.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — MountainOne ended a successful 175th anniversary year approaching $1 billion in assets and a future that looks to be "busy."
"So with all this you might say we're busy, except for MountainOne, we're not allowed to say we're busy. You've got to work, you're supposed to be busy, right?" said President and CEO Robet Fraser after ticking off a list of positives. "So we're not busy. We're fulfilled, and this year is going to be incredibly fulfilling."
The banking institution held its demisemiseptcentennial, or maybe it was a septaquintaquinquecentennial, business meeting on Wednesday night. Whatever the preferred Latin is for 175 years, MountainOne was marking a significant milestone with more than 120 guests and bank members at Norad Mill and another grouping at the Weathervane Golf Course in Weymouth. 
Fraser, speaking via livestream from the South Shore, joked that "we have this unique business model where we give you the money — but you have to give it back."
That's been the standard since April 1848 when Isaac Hodges, Thomas Robinson and William Brayton founded the North Adams Savings Bank on Main Street. 
The first merger occurred in 1962 between North Adams Savings and Hoosac Savings banks, later becoming simply Hoosac Bank in 1998; Hoosac acquired True North Financial and Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan & Collins Insurance a year later; in 2002, MountainOne Financial Partners is formed as holding company for Hoosac and Williamstown Savings and MountainOne begins its South Shore adventure with the merger of South Coastal Bank; a year later, all three banks change their names to MountainOne. The investment and insurance arms also come under the MountainOne moniker and the newest affiliate, a Longmeadow insurance agency, was acquired in February.
"When I think about MountainOne, I think of one organization that was comprised of three different banks, two insurance agencies and investment division," said Fraser. "And we've been able to come together and be incredibly successful working with each other. 
"So a tip of the hat to all of you for the success we have had. Thank you very much."
The annual meeting was welcomed by Chairman Daniel Bosley who read from resolutions from the House and Senate congratulating the bank on its 175 years of "exceptional service and unwavering commitment to the community."
A third resolution was from Mayor Jennifer Macksey, stating MountainOne was "dedicated to delivering tangible solutions that empower individuals, businesses and community institutions to navigate their financial affairs with clarity, and confidence."
The business meeting portion confirmed the trustees, corporators and officers for the year and voted in two changes: allowing corporators to serve beyond the 75 years of age cutoff and creating honorary nonvoting corporators to retain their institutional memory and allow them to continue to be updated. The meeting also recognized anniversary years for a number of employees. 
Steven Owens, chief financial officer, went over the financials for the past year and Jonathan Denmark, president and chief operating officer of MountainOne Insurance, reviewed changes and challenges in that industry.
Bosley spoke of how he'd been at function in Dorchester and was talking with a man who said he was from Quincy. He told him that MountainOne had a branch there. 
"He said 'wait a minute,' and he pulled this MountainOne debit card out, and he said, 'I love this bank,'" Bosley said to laughter. "That kind of epitomizes how I see us  ...  We work hard where we live, because that's where we live. And that's where our hearts our and that's where our communities our and it makes me just so proud to be part of this organization."
He described the financial institution has having solid and strong leadership with "tremendous commitment."
There are challenges ahead, Fraser said, noting three large banks had failed last year and that higher interest rates are taking their toll. 
"We've made the best of it, adapted to that environment," he said, but the Federal Reserve, in its attempt to address inflation, has instituted "this historical level of rate increases that is unprecedented in an unprecedented period of time. We've never seen rate increases in such a short period of time."
The banking industry is seeing the impact on profitability and where it once worried about credit risk, it's now concerned about liquidity. 
MountainOne is weathering the storm and is focused on the three technology pillars of its strategic plan: a revamped website and new digital banking platform, cybersecurity, and efficiencies in internal workflow processes. 
The institution is also developing a new class of emerging leaders, "high potential" Mountaineers who will be training to keep with the demands of technology.  
MountainOne held a number of events over the past year to mark its anniversary — receptions, customer service appreciation, community activities, and a daylong retreat for Mountaineers — as well as branding, swag and social media. 
Jill Amato, senior vice president of marketing and community banking, spoke about where the institution is headed in terms of marketing strategy for a growing organization. 
MountainOne is at the point where "who doesn't know us," said Amato. "We want to convert our audiences to be customers. We are laser focused on this goal on increasing deposits, attracting new relationships and growing our customer base."
The marketing team used Mo the mountain goat, the institution's "spokesgoat," to create a children's book, written by Doug Murphy and illustrated by Laura Salafia. 
In "How to Climb a Mountain," Mo and his friends overcome obstacles through thoughtful planning. 
"We want to make financial education fun for kids and we saw that as reading for kids by parents in the community," she said, as Mo showed up to celebrate on the screen at the Weathervane. The book will be shared with libraries, schools and MountainOne locations and each guest at the event received a book and a set of historic postcard photos.
"Even though we've had our most successful years back to back, you know, there's no resting on your laurels," Fraser. "The velocity change is just part of it. And we're really focused on adapting to that and ensuring that we're really also focused on the customer experience."

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North Adams High School Athletes Place Flags on Veterans Graves

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Raegan Keil, daughter of VSO Mitchell Keil, participates in placing the American Flag on veterans' graves. The first flag she placed was in the marker of Michael Kline, her grandfather.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Athletes from Drury High School and McCann Technical School gave up the rare free Saturday morning to place flags on veterans graves in Southview Cemetery.
"I was very humbled when I saw the cars coming in, and I actually had to go over to the corner and put my sunglasses down and hide my tears, because it was very, very humbling to see everybody show up," said Travys Rivers, the city's veterans grave officer.
Rivers, a firefighter and veteran, said he sent out the "bat signal" and called John Moore of Drury and Robin Finnegan of McCann to see if any of the sports teams were free.
River said he was unsure what to expect, knowing many student athletes likely had games or practice. But come Saturday morning, around 100 students showed up with coaches and high school athletics administration. 
"I am amazed by these kids. They gave up a Saturday morning. They could have slept in if they didn't have practice or whatever," Rivers said. "They did not have to do this but instead came down and busted their butts."
Northern Berkshire Veterans Service Officer Mitchell Keil added that he often hears that the youth do not participate in civic activities. He said Saturday proves the opposite.
"As a veteran, it is heartwarming to see this type of participation from today's youth and encouraging for the future of the community. They may not understand the impact their involvement has on those that see them in action or those family members that visit a departed loved one's grave and see them continuously honored," he said. "Our city has a large group of individuals that are dedicated to honoring those veterans that have passed. This long tradition is in good hands, and as we move forward I encourage all to take part in the pursuit of honoring our veterans daily."
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