PATERSON, NJ- For Gigi Gonzalez the chance to work at M&T Bank’s newly opened Paterson branch is about more than just having a job, it’s also about the chance to give back to the community she was raised in.

Coming out from behind the counter where she serves the branch’s diverse, and quickly growing, clientele, Gonzalez beamed with pride about both her job and her city.

The JFK High School and Passaic County College alumnus is, she told TAPinto Paterson at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting marking the official opening of the bank on Main Street, excited to be a “part of something new in Paterson.

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While the “community bank” as Gonzalez and several of her colleagues referred to it, opened its doors to customers in May, it has, under the leadership of Branch Manager Tifani Borel, been building relationships with the Paterson community since September. 

The litany of banking services sounds similar to what other brands may offer, free checking accounts, business credit cards, a variety of merchant services for small businesses, but, what sets M&T apart, Borel said, is their overarching mission of “building relationships.”

“We avoid product pushing,” said Noel Carroll, Senior Vice President of Retail for M&T Bank. “If we connect with the customers, that will come.”

“If we don’t add value for our customers we are just like any other bank,” Carroll continued referring to the company’s culture as one of “how did we help?”

On hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon was Mayor-Elect Andre Sayegh who thanked M&T Bank for choosing Paterson, calling them “new friends” and saying he was “encouraged” by the investment made and job opportunities created for local residents, like Gonzalez. 

The opening had an even more practical meaning for Gianfranco Archimede, Executive Director of Paterson’s Historic Preservation Commission.

As an “anchor tenant” in a building along one of Paterson’s main retail corridors M&T Bank is providing “stability” for the building’s owner, making investing in creating residential units above street level more viable Archimede explained.

“Making more residential space available means more people downtown,” Archimede said. As that happens, he continued, “demand grows, and the area becomes more dynamic.”

Heading back behind the counter to assist her next customer Gonzalez captured the collective mood of the day in just a few words when she offered her own optimism for the city she has called home her entire life:

“There is so much potential for Paterson.”