For many small businesses in the Hudson Valley, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been a lifeline during the pandemic. Few people understand how important it was for small businesses to be able to continue operating quite like Doug Sturges, CEO of Sawyer Savings Bank, a financial anchor in the area celebrating its 150-year anniversary this year.
As a local bank, Sawyer Savings Bank was nimble enough to jump right into the PPP process, helping to support hundreds of small businesses by providing over $8 million in PPP loans—all while continuing to employ its entire staff and providing essential services at all three of its branches in Saugerties, Marlboro, and Highland. "It was weeks of long hours through the weekends, but that's just the way small banks operate," says Sturges. "I'm proud of how our team met these challenges in the past year."
Since its 1871 founding in Saugerties, dedication to the community has always been at the heart of Sawyer Savings Bank. Its desire to remain independent places the bank as one of less than 20 mutual savings banks remaining in New York State. As a mutual savings bank, Sawyer Savings is owned by the depositors instead of private shareholders. This enables the bank to invest its profits directly into programs that benefit the communities where the bank operates.
One such initiative is its First Time Homebuyer Program, which can provide homebuyers with up to 100 percent financing on their home mortgages. According to Sturges, the program is unmatched by any other bank, and has helped over 150 Ulster County residents purchase their first home over the last 10 years. The bank also offers a 30-year commercial loan designed to lower required payments so small business owners can put more money back into growing their business. "We enjoy working with small business owners to determine how Sawyer Savings can assist in bringing their concepts to reality," says Sturges.
Financial situations of customers change constantly. And while defaulting on a loan is anyone's worst-case scenario, Sawyer Savings is committed to working closely with borrowers to find creative solutions that larger banks are not willing to consider. "Everyone with a loan has the intention to pay it back," says Sturges. "Rather than going directly to foreclosure, we will sit down with the borrower to try to get them through a difficult time in their financial situation."
With a team that lives and works in the Hudson Valley, it only makes sense that Sawyer Savings places a high priority on giving back to the community by supporting local food pantries, educational programs, athletics, high school scholarship funds, and more. And as part of the celebration of its 150-year anniversary in 2021, the bank has committed to donating $150,000 to local non-profit organizations. "We wouldn't be able to celebrate our 150th anniversary without the continued support of the surrounding communities and we wanted to thank them through this program," Sturges says.
The bank is also dedicated to being a responsible corporate citizen. As part of its climate change initiative, the bank is pursuing the addition of solar arrays to its buildings and electric vehicle charging stations in its parking lots, as well as actively searching for businesses to finance that have a mission to improve the environment.
As a bank that has served its community through a century-plus of ups and downs—including the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Great Recession, and now another pandemic—it's no wonder Sawyer Savings is focused on creating a prosperous future for the Hudson Valley. "We've come up with the concept of a 'Forever Bank' where everything we do has the future financial security of the bank and our community in mind," says Sturges. "That's why we've been here for 150 years and will be here for 150 more."