By Cassidy Norton
Salvatore “Sal” Marranca took a rather circuitous route to the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Marranca began his banking career out of college as an examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). He was with the FDIC for 14 years, including several he spent “playing soldier,” as he says, in Vietnam. He returned from the war to continue his work at the government agency, but much like the Army, it soon became apparent that “you’re either a lifer or you get out,” he says. “And I didn’t want to be a lifer.”
For a man raised upstate, moving to New York City or Washington, D.C. to continue with the FDIC didn’t hold much appeal, and he had two young children whom he didn’t want to see grow up in a city. So Marranca set his sights on the vast geographic territory west and north of the island of Manhattan, and settled in Cattaraugus County, near the shores of the Great Lakes, in 1982. There he raised his two daughters, and it is there that nearly 30 years later, he is the CEO of Cattaraugus County Bank (CCB).
CCB originally opened in 1890 as a private bank held by E.B. Crissey and his son, Harlow – though Marranca says he’s “pretty sure at that time you could just put up a sign and call yourself a bank.” The two Crisseys supported the successful Salamanca and Little Valley Electric Railway, bought the first equipment for the town’s fire company and set the foundation for the bank’s success in the area.
At the turn of the century, the Crissey and Crissey Bank was bought by a group of local investors, and in 1902 the newly chartered Cattaraugus County Bank opened its doors to the public. Those same doors remain open today at the bank’s main branch on Main Street in Little Valley.
CCB’s geographic area is “as far west as you can go without being in Lake Erie,” Marranca says. “We’re 60 miles south of Buffalo and nine miles from the Pennsylvania border. This is snow country – the words ‘lake effect’ have meaning around here.”
CCB’s nine branches are located in three Western New York counties that are as diverse as can be. There’s a large Amish population, and a branch office in Salamanca, a city with a population of about 6,000 – and the only U.S. city built on an Indian reservation.
“This is Main Street, America,” Marranca says. “This is what it’s all about.”
As a former FDIC examiner and the current vice president of the Independent Community Bank Association (ICBA), which represents over 5,000 community banks across the country, Marranca is uniquely situated to witness the differences between urban banks and rural banks – and the challenges and sentiments that unite all community banks, no matter their geographic locale.
CCB’s small business loan portfolio is growing at an astonishing rate, Marranca says. In October, the loans were up 14 percent from the same time last year.
“It’s primarily in the commercial loan area,” he says. “There’s no credit crunch at our bank.”
Some of the growth comes from small business owners who are retreating from larger banks – and those who have been thrust out of the larger portfolios. “There’s this huge corporation, and sometimes the decisions they make don’t quite mesh with what small business owners want and need,” Marranca says.
CCB recently picked up a $1 million loan from an automobile dealership that was “in great shape,” according to Marranca. The dealership was associated with a larger bank in New York – until that bank decided that there would be no more loans with auto dealers.
The bank also acquired the accounts of a local manufacturing plant. The company “hit a small bump, and they know why they hit that bump, and they have a business plan to get over it in two years,” Marranca says. But the big bank dumped them anyway.
“We do our best to provide the right product,” Marranca says. “We’re flexible. We try to create or craft the right product for small businesses, because what’s best for the business is best for us.”
That kind of conversation – how the bank can best help its loan customers, and how the customers can best be helped by the bank – happens a lot in his office. Because while banking is a business, in a place like Little Valley, the person who owns the dealership could be selling him a car in a few years.
“We’re neighbors, we’re friends,” he says. “You can’t hide in a community bank.”
To that end, CCB’s employees volunteer in the community in record numbers. They write checks, but they also visit classrooms, serve on boards and host drives and fundraisers.
“We are the resource here,” Marranca says. “We donate time, money, energy and expertise. We’re involved in any activity that’s good for our area, not just business development. We’re very involved in the schools; there’s a desperate need for support in our schools.”
CCB is “invested in the community; we’re a part of it,” he says. “Our century-old bank is best for the people of this area, and we take that responsibility very seriously. If we were to become a part of a larger bank, the community loses in every possible way, and we don’t want to see that happen.”
Cassidy Norton is the associate editor of custom publications for The Warren Group, publisher of Banking New York.