BB&T did not forget the small Berks County town that helped give rise to the multibillion dollar bank now based in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The charming borough of Boyertown got a boost to its economic development and tourism efforts thanks to $1 million in grants from the BB&T Economic Growth Fund, which was created after National Penn Bank merged with BB&T.
National Penn Bank and its predecessor, National Bank of Boyertown, had been based in Boyertown for more than 100 years before moving to Allentown in 2014.
BB&T also offered to match $500,000 in challenge grants.
The grants, which were announced last week, will support Building a Better Boyertown’s downtown revitalization project, called the Boyertown Vision & Action Plan, which includes the restoration of center for the tourist excursion Colebrook Railroad, construction of a tourism office and website, development of a business recruitment package and hiring a destination consultant and additional staff.
Kevin K. Murphy, president of the Berks County Community Foundation, said the size of the grant would be a huge kick-starter for cities even as large as Reading, let alone one with a population of 4,000.
“For a community the size of Boyertown, this is just an enormous shot in the arm,” Murphy said.
“It’s huge,” said Adrianne Blank, Main Street manager at Building a Better Boyertown, who said the money will be used to implement the goals laid out in the Town Vision project.
“We discovered that tourism and developing the Colebrookdale Railroad lot as a town center will continue to attract tourism to Boyertown,” Blank said.
The largest portion of the grant, $750,000 will go for the restoration and construction of a town center for the Colebrookdale Railroad.
Blank said some of the buildings once owned by National Penn are now an opportunity “to bring in transformational businesses that will fit with that tourism initiative,” such as restaurants, breweries and other destination businesses.
The $1 million grant was the second round given to Boyertown, which received $120,000 from BB&T to create an economic development plan.
The money was to be spent in areas most affected by Penn National Bank’s merger with BB&T.
“We had a long history of working with Boyertown and we knew there was a ton of energy there,” Murphy said.
Murphy lauded Scott V. Fainor, executive of the BB&T Community Banking Group and former CEO of National Penn Bank, who after the merger, got BB&T to donate $5 million in 2016 to the Berks County Community Foundation and the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation for economic development.
“American corporations get a lot of bad press, but you have corporate leaders like Scott who really stand up and do the right thing by a community that is the reason for the success the bank has had,” Murphy said.
“Scott was very focused that we spend most of the money where the most of the merger was felt, and that would be Boyertown,” Murphy said.
Boyertown suffered job losses from the merger and also lost a major tenant from numerous offices and buildings.