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Bank continues to play key role in community

Rochester Business Journal
August 24, 2012

A desire to help others is deeply ingrained in the Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Co.
"It's really a fabric-it's a word I like to use-of our culture," said Stephen Martin, senior vice president.
The company encourages its approximately 500 employees to give their time and energy to non-profit organizations, cultural institutions and other worthy causes, Martin said, and gives them paid time off to do it.
Martin, for example, recently stepped down as chairman of the board for the Finger Lakes Community College Foundation and serves on the boards of the Rochester Broadway Theatre League and other local non-profits.
Other bank employees or officers might help prepare an ecumenical dinner, raise millions of dollars for a local hospital expansion or assist organizations around the region in other ways.
"We all have this greater community that we live in, and it's an opportunity for us to contribute, in sometimes a small or a large way," he said.
Martin's attitude seems to flow from the top. George Hamlin IV, chairman and CEO, has served as the chairman or a director of many local non-profits and is known for his support of local cultural institutions.
The bank, for instance, has pledged to support the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Pops Series to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year.
"George has demonstrated a deep passion for the arts-and for arts education-through his personal philanthropies and the community involvement of the bank," said Charles Owens, president and CEO of the RPO.
That view of service to the community flows through the bank's 125-year history. CNB developed a close relationship with Frederick Ferris Thompson Hospital and its board of directors when it opened in Canandaigua in 1904.
"I would imagine they were on the board from the very beginning," said Christopher Mahan, senior vice president for support services at Thompson Health.
Many bank officers have given their time and energy to the health organization since then, Mahan said, helping to guide it from a 32-bed facility on North Main Street to Thompson Health, a system that serves the Finger Lakes region.
CNB's officers and employees also have given to the health system and helped raise money for it. CEO Hamlin and other bank officers either helped raise the money for the hospital's recent $43.5 expansion project or donated outright to its funding, Mahan said. The project renovated 48,000 square feet of F.F. Thompson Hospital's existing space and increased its size by about one-third.
Mahan said others-especially Constellation Brands Inc. and the family of its founder, Marvin Sands-have given a great deal of support to Thompson Health.
But he said, "It is difficult to imagine another organization that had as much to do with our growth as Canandaigua National Bank."
CNB's generosity also has touched some of the region's premier cultural institutions, one of which might have found itself in dire straits if the bank had not stepped in to help. Back in the early 1990s, the cyclical nature of the RPO's revenue stream left the institution badly in need of money.
"The financial viability of the RPO was at risk," Owens said.
Hamlin was involved in helping the RPO formulate a new business plan, Owens said, and in helping the organization obtain a line of credit from the bank.
"(Those efforts) saved the RPO at the time by enabling the RPO to meet its payroll and other obligations during the times of the year when cash flow was weakest," he said.
The RPO has continued to use that line of credit.
Music lovers began to hear the effects of CNB's support for the RPO more clearly last year, when the bank and Fibertech Networks LLC, a Brighton firm, agreed to co-sponsor the Pops Series. Owens said the bank's pledge of $150,000 over five years, joined with Fibertech's donations, gives the series welcome financial stability.
Such actions prompted the RPO to present its 2011-12 RPO Community Partner of the Year Award to CNB and Fibertech.
CNB's willingness to help others-and Hamlin's love of music-also have found expression in other quarters. Hamlin serves as chairman of the Eastman School of Music board of managers and is on some of the school's other boards.
"He is truly passionate about the Eastman School of Music's mission," said Director of Advancement Lisa Ann Seischab.
CNB and Hamlin have extended their generosity to the Eastman School in many ways, Seischab said, most notably in their financial support of the school's $46.9 million theater renovation and expansion project.
The project, completed in 2010, renovated the Eastman Theatre's performance hall-now Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre-and added a new wing to the school, the Eastman East Wing.
More recently, CNB helped fund a 2011 benefit concert for the Renee Fleming Endowed Scholarship Fund, which Fleming, an Eastman School alumna, headlined. Bank donations also have helped finance the Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competitions for two years running. The competitions, which bring 15- to 18-year-old pianists from all over the world to Rochester, build awareness for the Eastman, Seischab said.
Efforts such as these benefit the region's cultural institutions, but CNB also has helped its community in a more physical, bricks-and-mortar way.
"They are a true community supporter, a true community bank," said city of Canandaigua mayor Ellen Polimeni.
CNB donated funds to the renovation of Canandaigua's Pioneer Cemetery in the late 1990s and to the 1996 rebuilding of parts of Kershaw Park, Polimeni said. In 2002, bank employees helped raise more than $1 million needed to turn a vacant lot into another public recreational area, Common Park.
Bank representatives also have helped raise the funds for a bronze statue commemorating Canandaigua's centennial, Polimeni said, and they sit on the committee that is guiding its forging and erection. The 11-foot-tall statue is to be unveiled at Routes 5 and 20 and Main Street in November 2013.
By that time, the antique clock that once struck the hours from the tower of Canandaigua's City Hall may be operating. Polimeni said the bank has helped fund the $25,000 restoration.
Told that helping a hospital to expand, funding concerts and contributing to the effort to get a city's antique clock running again does not seem to fit the common image of a banker, Martin laughed.
"I would say to that, 'Thank you.'" 
Mike Costanza is a Rochester-area freelance writer.8/24/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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