A decade ago, the banking industry identified Orange County to be as rife for expansion and growth as anywhere in the New York metropolitan area. To that end, the industry seized the initiative and invested the necessary dollars.
Subsequently, one institution after another has bolstered its presence in the county over the last several years. Some expansion has been organic – mainly from local banks and credit unions. Acquisitions, mergers and consolidations, meanwhile, have either brought in or significantly altered the presence of a number of national powerhouse financial institutions, as well as some top-of-the-line regionals.
Today, somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 separate facilities offer one or more of a variety of banking and lending services. Besides the banks themselves, the beneficiaries are both commercial and consumer interests.
Along with larger institutions such as JP Morgan Chase, HBSC Bank and M&T Bank, more localized operations like Provident, Walden Federal Savings & Loan and Orange County Trust have beefed up their footprint. Also participating in the same competitive environment, albeit under slightly different regulatory parameters, are credit unions like Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (which first breathed life as an IBM employee organization) and Hudson Heritage, among others.
Provident Bank’s steady expansion into Orange from its home base in bordering Rockland County very much mirrors Orange’s historical growth pattern over the last decade or so. Just as there was a steady migration of newcomers to the county from New York City and Rockland County, so too did Provident “follow its commercial and consumer customers,” says Steve Dormer, the bank’s Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer. “We looked at the demographics from the last two censuses and saw that the county was growing about 10 percent every year.”
But that wasn’t the only factor behind Provident’s strategic plan. The bank also looked at the quality of companies moving to Orange County, its infrastructure and transportation system, the vibrant healthcare scene and, a tipping point, “the notable business leadership in the county,” Dormer says.
Provident decided to expand through acquisitions as well as opening new branches in such towns as New Windsor, Chester and Pine Bush, and the city of Middletown.
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Provident sees itself as a “community bank” that provides “an efficient local source of financing,” Dormer says. And it’s made a commitment from the outset to become an active member of the local business community.
“Our people are involved in all the local business organizations,” he says. “They’re networking, they share knowledge and contacts with local leaders and they’re always telling small- to medium-sized companies that Orange County is the place to do business and live.”
To Their Credit
“It’s a rich time for credit unions,” says Bob Michaud, Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Office. “There’s nothing like a local operation that’s an asset to the community.”
No question, “local” institutions see themselves as being able to provide enhanced value to consumers during the lending process. “We make the decision here, locally, and that comes with an understanding of the local markets,” Michaud says. “That’s seen as a big plus for credit unions.”
In addition, tempest-tossed credit markets in recent years have placed credit unions in a much more favorable light as they stick to their tried-and-true business model – taking in deposits from owner-members and then lending the money back to them.
So, through a combination of local identity and knowledge, together with a “plain dealer” approach, credit unions have prospered.
Mid-Hudson Valley’s story is not that dissimilar from Provident in that it’s come to Orange from a neighboring county, in this case Ulster. As has been well documented, the institution started life almost 50 years ago as a credit union serving IBM’s thousands of employees in the Hudson Valley.
Mid-Hudson Valley has continued to thrive, and sees the Orange County market as “very exciting,” Michaud says. Besides new facilities in Middletown and a soon-to-be-built one in Newburgh, the credit union is also eyeing appropriate locations (often mall-type parking lots) for its micro-office kiosks.
Mid-Hudson Valley Credit Union foresees a steady period of commercial and consumer growth in Orange County, thanks to a list of assets that includes Stewart Airport, a solid transportation system, a quality infrastructure and an educated workforce.
Michaud, like many other bankers, also credits the county’s “business mentality and strong chamber of commerce” as contributing factors to growth. “There’s very, very good leadership in Orange County,” he says, adding that one more benefit is Orange’s location, which is “far enough away from New York City but close enough to share in the advantages.”