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Greenfield Savings and Franklin County Technical School a great partnership

  • Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Rick Martin and Carpentry instructor Ken Vautrin talk with Denise Coyne of the Greenfield Savings Bank which helped provide funding to build this 1380 square foot house on Central Street in Millers Falls, Ervingside. October 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ


Friday, October 19, 2018

Greenfield Savings Bank’s latest community venture feels like the polar opposite of what those too-big-to-fail banks did to trigger the Great Recession. Those banks were out to make money, unaware or unconcerned that their bad subprime mortgages were going to ruin the lives of real people and damage the nation’s economic health for a decade.

No doubt our local banks need to turn a profit at the end of the day, but there are ways to do that by riding a wave of economic development that enriches the community without endangering it.

That’s why we love how Greenfield Savings has partnered with the Franklin County Technical School to build houses.

Over the decades, Tech School students have learned and practiced their trades by constructing buildings in the community. It’s always seemed like a good deal. The students benefit from hands-on learning and some would-be homeowner gets a good deal on a custom-built house. Sometimes the students work on a project with Habitat for Humanity, the charity that combines volunteer labor, financial counseling and a prospective owner’s sweat equity to make a first home affordable.

But those projects don’t come around in Franklin County often enough to keep the Tech builders busy.

Enter Ken Vautrin, one of the carpentry instructors at the school, who got permission to work with a local bank to create a Habitat-like project.

Add Greenfield Savings, which has a reputation for building on the good will generated by a number of community outreach endeavors. This time, the bank created a foundation to work with Tech on building projects, and provided seed money.

Two years later, the bankers, teachers and students are celebrating completion and sale of their new house, at 26 Central St. in Erving.

The goal is for the foundation to become self-sufficient, by rolling over money from the sale of one house toward the next house.

In fact, the concrete has already been poured for the next project, just down the street.

“This house is going to fund that house,” Paul Benjamin, head of marketing for Greenfield Savings Bank, pointed out an open house recently. “And that house will fund another house. This is going to be a legacy for this school.”

The bank established Franklin Technical School Building Society Inc. after Vautrin approached President John Howland.

Vautrin said more than 100 students had a hand in building the structure, with as many as 40 working on it at one time.

“This is a learning environment,” he said. “We took it from the foundation up.”

As with the Habitat projects, everyone leaves a winner. The new homeowners get a house built with great care, albeit by beginners, at a good price; the students get the experience, and the bank and Tech get to pass it on, as money from this sale makes the next project possible.

Familiar with the bank’s other outreach efforts over the years, we were not surprised to find it recognizing the value of this project, to the community and probably to the bottom line. After all, much of the bank’s growth since 2008 probably came from people leaving the too-big-to-fail big banks for local banks that care about their locale.