M&T Bank to host Multicultural Small Business Lab

M&T Bank is seeking as many as 50 entrepreneurs to take part in its second annual Capital Region Multicultural Small Business Lab – a free program designed to provide multicultural business owners with the guidance and skills needed to build strong businesses, spur economic growth in the Harrisburg area and build generational wealth.

The seven-week program, in partnership with the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, will focus on business planning, establishing credit, accessing capital, marketing, branding and networking.

The Multicultural Small Business Lab starts May 10 at Harrisburg University, with courses held weekly Wednesday evenings. It will conclude June 21 with a pitch competition and opportunity to win M&T-funded grants totaling $12,000 – $6,000 for first place, $4,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place.

Entrepreneurs interested in participating must complete an online application no later than April 18 and meet the following eligibility requirements:

· Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx or Asian American;

· In business no more than three years;

· Annual business revenue of $350,000 or less;

· Reside in the Greater Harrisburg area.

Qualified applicants will be enrolled in the program on a first-come, first-served basis.

Entrepreneurs who participated in the Capital Region Multicultural Small Business Lab in 2022 are eligible to enroll this year, if they did not receive a prize award during last year’s program.

“The Multicultural Small Business Lab provides local entrepreneurs with the guidance and resources necessary to pursue opportunities benefitting their surrounding communities,” Nora Habig, M&T Bank’s regional president for Central and Western Pennsylvania, said in a release. “This year’s program marks the second year of our partnership with the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship to offer the Capital Region’s small-business owners a program and grant opportunities to propel their businesses to the next level.”

In its first year, 2022, the program provided 40 minority small-business owners with free access to resources and education to grow their business.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

M&T Bank commits more than $1.2M to community projects

M&T Bank will provide more than $1.2 million to 42 initiatives serving distressed communities/low-income neighborhoods in the commonwealth – several of which are in central Pennsylvania or the Lehigh Valley – through the state’s Neighborhood Assistance Program.

The bank’s commitment is among the $36 million Gov. Tom Wolf recently approved for the program, which provides tax credits to businesses like M&T that donate capital to support the projects approved to use NAP funding for affordable housing, community services, crime prevention, education, job training, food access, blight, special population issues, veterans’ initiatives or long-term community revitalization.

The projects M&T will help support through NAP include:

· $25,000 to HDC Mid-Atlantic for the ongoing development of its College Avenue affordable housing project in Lancaster;

· $25,000 to Kutztown Small Business Development Center to assist entrepreneurs and small-business owners gain access to resources and information needed to launch or grow their businesses;

· $10,000 for Midwest Food Bank in Middletown to provide food rescue and distribution to more than 137,000 hungry individuals in central Pennsylvania;

· $50,000 for WEPA Empowerment Center to establish a bilingual community-based workforce development center in Lebanon city.

“M&T supports the Neighborhood Assistance Program as an innovative way to spur community development and revitalization throughout Pennsylvania,” Gail D’Angelo, M&T’s community reinvestment manager for Pennsylvania, said in a release. “We look forward to working with our partner organizations that were approved for NAP this year and witnessing the tremendous impact they will make in their respective communities.”

Buffalo-based M&T Bank has participated in the NAP program for years, with increased commitments in each of the past three years. In fiscal 2022, which ended June 30, the bank provided $836,000 to 35 projects throughout the state.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Expanded McCormick Riverfront Library to feature book cafe

Stefan Hawkins, owner of Good Brotha’s Book Café. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Good Brotha’s Book Café will open this fall as part of the McCormick Riverfront Library expansion, the first coffee shop in Dauphin County Library System’s eight locations.

Owner Stefan Hawkins said his current shop in midtown Harrisburg would close Sept. 10 because the building’s owner is selling the property.

“We’re looking at opening in McCormick on Oct. 17, and I’m excited to bring Good Brotha’s to everyone visiting the library,’’ Hawkins said in a release. “I opened my cafe with a mission of expanding access to titles in Black and African American literature, so this partnership with the library is perfect.’’

Library System Executive Director Karen Cullings said the arrangement is an example of how the library is partnering with businesses and organizations.

Cullings also announced Friday the chance for donors to the $3.5 million expansion project to have their gift showcased in a custom panel as part of an appreciation wall in McCormick’s new welcome center.

“We want to recognize everyone who helped make this project possible, and the donor recognition wall in the new T. Morris Chester Welcome Center is a beautiful way to commemorate their generosity for generations to come,’’ Cullings said.

She added that demand for the library’s resources has never been greater, with McCormick’s location in downtown Harrisburg making it easily accessible.

The expanded McCormick Riverfront Library will feature a 3,400-plus-square-foot family area that incorporates science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math learning support, 950 square feet of public meeting space, added public computer resources and more.

State-of-the-art “zSpace” computers will allow learners to use “augmented reality” to explore nature, conduct science experiments, build digital models and virtually travel to the stars.

And the new M&T Bank Business Center will provide entrepreneurs, small business owners and job seekers access to computers and printers, mailing supplies, notary services and meeting space.

Also, the T. Morris Chester Research collection will curate resources focusing on the value of the vote, and the remodeled space will house the Pennsylvania Past Players, a troupe that showcases the region’s historical advocates for the rights of Blacks, women and others.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

M&T donates former branch building for workforce development center

M&T donated its recently closed branch at 800 E. Market St. to the Spanish American Civic Association
M&T donated its recently closed branch at 800 E. Market St. to the Spanish American Civic Association. PHOTO/PROVIDED

It’s not unusual these days for banks to consolidate branches.

But when M&T Bank decided to combine two of its York locations, the financial institution looked for a way to turn the vacated building into a community asset.

M&T donated its recently closed branch at 800 E. Market St. to the Spanish American Civic Association to create Tec Centro York, a workforce development center that will help the underemployed and unemployed find jobs in high-demand fields from health care to construction.

The basic adult education, linguistic and job skills training and career counseling Tec Centro York provides are geared to residents in historically underserved communities. Lancaster-based SACA has partnered with York Community Resource Center, a nonprofit that offers vocational and technical training, to administer the workforce development programs.

The building will be transferred to the Resource Center, using the Tec Centro model SACA started in Lancaster in 2014 as a template. Tec Centro Berks followed on that, opening in Reading in 2021. And work is ongoing to establish a Tec Centro in Lebanon.

Tec Centro York is scheduled to open in the second quarter of next year.

M&T closed the 800 E. Market St. branch July 29 and consolidated operations at its 21 E. Market St. location.

A subsidiary of Buffalo, New York-based M&T Bank Corp., M&T Bank serves customers from branches in 12 states and Washington, D.C.

Gail D’Angelo, regional community reinvestment act manager for M&T, said the 800 E. Market St. branch, which was originally an Allfirst Bank before that institution merged into M&T, was in a “pretty prominent corner in the neighborhood.”

And it served that neighborhood for a long time. She emphasized that a full-service ATM will remain available to customers outside Tec Centro York.

The bank also “didn’t want to leave the branch dark,” D’Angelo said, so its leadership strongly favored giving the building to an organization that would do something “impactful,” she said.

M&T worked with SACA before, and was aware of the Tec Centro model. The bank “knew this was something that was available as an opportunity,” D’Angelo said.

After a meeting was held with SACA executives, including President Carlos Graupera and CEO Jose R. Lopez, the idea to create Tec Centro York in the former bank branch started coming to fruition.

“We think it’s really cool to bring this to the York area,” D’Angelo said, and “we’re super excited to provide this space to them.”

The building has a lower level, a first floor and a second floor, all of which are usable, she said.

Getting the York Community Resource Center involved and other partners is “just going to make it a big win,” D’Angelo said.

“SACA and Tec Centro are immensely grateful for collaborative partnerships, like that of M&T Bank,” Graupera, who’s also the founder of SACA, said in a release. “This is a powerful example of a business using its resources and expertise to work alongside other organizations to amplify the community’s access to and effectiveness of our workforce development programs.”

In addition to workforce development, SACA’s programming also focuses on human services, behavioral health, affordable housing and commercial development, and public broadcasting.

According to the Lancaster Tec Centro website, students are trained for such jobs as certified nurse aide; dental assistant; medical assistant; physician assistant; phlebotomist; commercial and industrial heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technician; forklift operator; facilities maintenance; commercial and industrial electrical technician; and commercial and industrial plumbing technician.

Training time varies, and can be up to six months. In 2019-20, including through the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, 160 participants enrolled in skills training at Tec Centro, with almost 89% increasing their income by at least 40%.

“In SACA, we found the perfect partner to provide residents of York with the resources and skills they need to improve their lives and provide for their families,” Tom Koppmann, M&T’s regional president for southeast Pennsylvania, said in the release. “We can’t wait to see how Tec Centro York helps to transform the communities it serves.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Six M&T Banks to offer ‘culturally fluent’ services

In an effort to expand services to communities with high concentrations of ethnic and racial diversity, M&T Bank announced that it’s designating six of its central and southeast Pennsylvania branches as multicultural banking centers.

The centers will offer banking and other financial services in languages customers prefer and employ bankers from the local neighborhoods.

The company’s mission is “to be culturally fluent for all communities, especially as the region becomes more diverse,” a release noted.

These branches are among the 118 multicultural banking centers the bank maintains throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

The new multicultural banking centers are:

· Berks County: Shillington branch.

· York County: 21 East Market Street branch and West York branch.

· Dauphin County: Harrisburg Main branch.

· Schuylkill County: Shenandoah branch.

· Lehigh County: Broad Street branch.

The bank recently launched a Spanish-language website – mtb.com/es – as well and has updated its ATM network to provide services in Chinese and Korean. M&T offers phone assistance in 240 languages.

“Our community model has always enabled us to develop a deep local understanding of the people and places we serve,” Tom Koppmann, M&T’s regional president for southeast Pennsylvania, said in the release. “With our multicultural banking centers, we’re taking the natural next step – providing a distinctive M&T experience shaped by the preferences and perspectives of the diverse customers who rely on us.”