| Lance Titus, Northwest Savings Bank; Susan Williams, Venango Area Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Chris Reber, Clarion University–Venango Campus
The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce was named Northwest Savings Bank as its 2010 Business of the Year. For the first time, this year a new award has been added. The Partner in Business Award recognizes a non-profit, governmental or educational organization that has developed a close partnership with the business community as a means to achieve its mission. The Chamber has named Clarion University-Venango Campus as its 2010 Partner in Business. Northwest Savings Bank and Clarion University -Venango Campus will be recognized at a Chamber gathering at the Movies at Cranberry at the Cranberry Mall at 5:00 on Thursday, April 22, the evening before the start of the annual Venango Works Trade Show.
The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce chooses the Business of the Year using a wide array of criteria that include active membership in the chamber and support for the community. Additionally, the committee appointed to choose the honoree considers criteria including reputation for customer service and reliability, major achievements in a given year, innovation, business leadership, and excellence. The new Partner in Business Award adds to this list participation in private-public partnerships; bringing creative solutions to community challenges; innovative programs, partnerships, fundraising, marketing; promotion of the region as a place to do business or visit and improving the quality of life for the Venango Area residents.
Executive Director Susan Williams shares, "Choosing the Business of the Year is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks of the board of directors, but also one of the most enjoyable. The Chamber's membership is made up of businesses who routinely exhibit these traits. This year's award winners, Northwest Savings Bank and Clarion University-Venango Campus not only have a history of being outstanding organizations in our region but continue to seek ways to better serve the community. They exemplify the traits that lead to success. Even the smallest business can learn from their example."
NORTHWEST SAVINGS BANK NAMED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
"We're all elated to be named Business of the Year," said Lance Titus, Manager of Oil City 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 and for allowing Northwest to be their bank."
Beth Harman, Manager of the bank's Cranberry Office, pointed out that Northwest, which is a subsidiary of Northwest Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ "NWBI"), continued its history of strong financial performance in 2009, a year when many financial institutions struggled.
It was a year for honors. Early in the year, Forbes® Magazine named Northwest Savings Bank to its list as one of the 100 Most Trustworthy Companies in the country. John Stiller, Division Vice President, Commercial Lending, explained the process, "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 eleven 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."
Northwest opened five new banking locations during the year, one in Youngsville, Pennsylvania, three near Rochester, New York, and one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Also, the bank merged with Keystone State Savings Bank in Sharpsburg, near Pittsburgh. Northwest now operates 171 banking locations in five states. Scott Ridgeway, who manages Northwest's Pleasantville Office, pointed out that the bank serves Venango County from six locations: in Cranberry, Franklin, three in Oil City, and in Pleasantville and from 25 more bank offices in contiguous counties. He noted that Northwest and its predecessors have served this county for well over 100 years.
Northwest sold $688 million of its common stock in a public offering in December, 2009, to become 100% 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, AVP, Venango County Area Manager of Northwest Savings Bank and Manager of its Franklin Office. "The foundation will allow us to do even more."
Banks are continuously evaluated for safety and soundness based on the levels of capital that they maintain. Northwest Savings Bank's capital levels far exceed all state and federal regulatory requirements and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the 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 our country. Ed Fennick, Senior Financial Advisor, noted that, in a recent survey of the country's 100 largest banks by Forbes® Magazine, Northwest ranked 23rd best based on strength of capital, asset quality, and profitability.
Mr. 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 honor. We appreciate being named Business of the Year more than you can know. Thank you."
Clarion University-Venango Campus named Partner in Business Award
"Clarion University-Venango Campus has been providing life-changing opportunities for the residents of Venango County and the region for 49 years," said Dr. Christopher M. Reber, executive dean. "From the very beginning, when community leaders and members of the Oil City Area Chamber of Commerce envisioned the need for a higher education presence in Venango County, to the present, Venango Campus has been the product of community and university, working together to advance the needs of the region. To be recognized with the Partner in Business Award by the organization that played such an integral role in the creation of the campus is truly an affirmation of our mission for which we are extremely grateful."
Clarion University-Venango Campus has more than doubled its enrollment in recent years due in large part to its growing network of educational partnerships with organizations in business, industry, health care, education, and other sectors. Enrollment reached an all-time high in fall 2009, with over 1000 students enrolled in campus programs and a growth of almost 10% over the previous fall.
"Our partnerships allow us to meet the workforce needs of the region," said Dr. Reber, "by educating future employees who are skilled in their technical fields and have the educational foundation to move into management positions. In this way, we help to keep jobs-and the people who need them-here at home."
The Department of Applied Technology was launched in 2003 in response to a recognized critical need for a technically skilled workforce with the preparation for career advancement. Utilizing a unique partnership model, students earn a Clarion University associate degree by completing academic courses at Clarion University-Venango Campus and the technical component of the degree through approved technical education providers. Over 100 students are currently enrolled in the Venango Campus' 23 applied technology program concentrations and graduate job placement exceeds 93%.
The design of the program allows for virtually limitless expansion. A new concentration to prepare certified web designers was recently launched and concentrations such as agile robotics, wind energy technology, and others are being considered. The campus is currently offering three concentrations of the associate degree in industrial technology in the Ridgway/St. Marys area and is considering further expansion, including Warren and New Castle, in the near future.
The Respiratory Care Program was created in 2006 after the critical regional and national shortage of respiratory therapists was brought to the attention of the university by UPMC Northwest and UPMC Horizon in Greenville and Sharon, Pennsylvania, who are educational partners in the program.
Both the Industrial Technology and the Respiratory Care programs earned full national accreditation in 2009.
Partnerships have also enabled the development of innovative programs in imaging sciences and nursing and the expansion of the delivery of nursing programs to employees at area hospitals, allowing the hospitals to "grow their own" nursing workforce. Hospital partners include UPMC Northwest, Meadville Medical Center, and West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Thanks to the generosity and support of many benefactors, over $10 million has been raised in recent years through gifts and grants to enable the campus to add programs, support students through scholarships, renovate facilities, and grow enrollment.
In 2009 alone, $3.5 million in construction projects were completed at the campus, including the renovation and restoration of West End Pond, new locker rooms in Robert W. Rhoades Center and the fourth and fifth buildings of the planned seven-building student apartment complex.
Student apartment housing has enabled the campus to recruit students from outside of commuting distance, students who are new members of our community and customers for local businesses and restaurants. When complete, the complex will house 132 students. All buildings are fully funded through private support and are owned and operated by the Clarion University Foundation, Inc.
The student apartments have also supported new programs and inspired enhanced out-of-class programming and services, and recreational activities and facilities, including the extensive renovation and expansion of Robert W. Rhoades Center, the hub of student and community activity.
An enhanced web site and new recruitment material, including radio, television, newspapers, and online media, highlight the beauty of the region, the outdoor recreational opportunities, and the advantages of living in the nurturing environment of our region. News coverage of the campus' growth has appeared regularly in the media throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.
New academic programs always meet two key criteria: they must meet priority educational needs in our region and have the potential for accreditation and quality. Many new programs at the certificate, associate, and bachelor's degree levels have been added to the growing array of Venango Campus academic programs in recent years, and additional new bachelor's and graduate programs are being planned. A Venango Campus Honors Program for students with high academic potential was developed, and the first students of that program graduated in May 2009.
The Venango Campus also strives to be a center for thought-provoking cultural and educational community events, all of which are free and open to the community.
The Barbara Morgan Harvey Center for the Study of Oil Heritage, funded through an endowment by the late Joseph Harvey and his children, sponsors an annual Community History Days each June, featuring activities celebrating the rich historical heritage of the oil region. Each fall, the Harvey Center offers a lecture about the history of the region and includes related programs that bring area school students to campus.
The campus continues to offer its popular international film series, coffee houses, a week-long program celebrating diversity, musical entertainment, lectures, and local art exhibits.
In March 2009, Venango Campus hosted a legal symposium entitled "What if the Supreme Court Looked Like This: All Women," featuring a panel of eight female Commonwealth judges led by former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman.
The campus supports the community through continuing education and programs to provide enriched educational opportunities for residents of all ages. These programs are supported through a variety of grant funding. Venango Vision Regional Leadership Institute develops future leaders to tackle the challenges that face the region and to identify a clear vision for the future. Early-start programs for area high school students afford them the opportunity to experience college work and earn college credits prior to high school graduation. Kids in College summer enrichment program offers art, science, math, and technology for area children in kindergarten through eighth grades.
The campus supports the efforts of area organizations through sponsorship of events that raise funds to benefit the region all year long. In addition, Venango Campus faculty and staff serve on numerous boards and committees throughout the region, and campus student organizations participate in many programs to help the community.
"The community has been an extraordinary partner through the Venango Campus' years of evolution and growth," said Dr. Reber. "The Partner in Business Award is a tribute to the many heroes in the region and at the university who have worked together to make the vision of high-quality, higher education in Venango County a reality. It is with deepest gratitude that my colleagues and I accept this award on their behalf."
The Business of the Year and the Partner in Business Awards were presented at a mixer on Thursday, April 22nd at The Movies at Cranberry, as a kick-off to the 2010 Venango Works Trade Show.