Survey shows businesses recovering from pandemic impact

Most business owners in the region are saying their business is nearly back to normal since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Provident Bank has released an economic outlook survey finding that 86% of business owners in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say they have fully recovered or expect to fully recover in 2022 from the economic impact of the pandemic.  

The survey covered the top challenges and conditions Pennsylvania and New Jersey businesses expect to face in 2022.  

A big challenge was the workforce, with 50% of respondents saying there are not enough applicants to fill open positions.  

Despite that shortage, however, more than 45% of companies said they plan to increase hiring in 2022.  

The survey also found that more than half (51%) of respondents said the majority of their staffs will be working in the office over the next 12 months. 

Approximately 57% of business owners have made cybersecurity a top priority for their organization and are well prepared in this area. 

Provident Bank surveyed 381 C-level executives and business owners between the ages of 25 and 90. About 25% of respondents were in the technology industry and about 14% were in retail. 




Provident Bank Foundation offering $2 million in grants

The Provident Bank Foundation has announced that it has made $2 million in funding available for its 2022 grant program. 

The money will be offered to organizations throughout the Morristown, New Jersey-based banks footprint, which includes Eastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. 

Three types of grants will be available in 2022 including Signature Grants, Major Grants and Community Grants. 

The Foundation will offer three $100,000 Signature Grants in 2022—one for each of the Foundation’s funding priority areas: community enrichment, education, and health, youth and families. As a new development for this grant program, organizations are now able to choose to use their funding over one to three years to help further support program sustainability. 

Major Grants will provide funding between $5,001 and $25,000 and continue to focus on specific programs and projects. The Foundation will allow for more flexibility on how grant funds are spent, leaving it up to recipients to utilize funding across the term based on the evolving needs of the program or project.   

Nonprofit applications for Community Grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be reviewed on a rolling basis and will specifically support general operations and fund day-to-day expenses.   

“We have made a dedicated effort to make funding more flexible and accessible. As nonprofits continue to face many changes and challenges in this evolving environment, we want to make sure we are meeting their needs,” said Samantha Plotino, executive director of The Provident Bank Foundation. “After focusing heavily on organizations directly connected to pandemic-related needs, we will now shift our focus back to areas like mental health and community enrichment, as well as boosting sustainability and bringing stability back into people’s lives.”   

Letters of Intent (LOIs) will be available on the Foundation’s website on Feb. 14. For Signature Grants as well as the Community Grant application. LOIs will be accepted for the first cycle of Major Grants beginning April 1, 2022. 

Interested applicants can visit the Foundation’s website for more information on the application process and eligibility criteria for each grant program. 


Survey: Home buyers face competition in current market, but most are cool with that

Home buyers continue to face competition in the market according to a new survey from Provident Bank, which has branches throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley. 

But the survey also shows that most are OK with that. 

According to the bank’s survey of recent home buyers, 61% said they competed in at least one bidding war during their home search. 

Most of those said their winning offer was at or above asking price with more than 25% saying it was more than 10% hire. Still, 70% of respondents reported a positive buying experience. 

“Our survey showed that first-time home buyers have not been scared off by the competitive housing market,” said Tony Labozzetta, president & COO, Provident Bank. “The research shows that motivators to move are largely quality of life factors like better neighborhoods, better schools, job relocation or transfer. The good news is that most have been pleased with the overall home buying process despite the competitive market.” 

The survey also found that recent buyers are offering lower down payments. 

Despite most respondents saying they offered less than 20% for a down payment, they had no difficulty obtaining a mortgage.  

Mortgage rates are still historically low for many recent home buyers, with 31% saying their rate is between 2% and 3%. 

Other findings in the survey showed that around 75% of home buyers did at least half of their home shopping in-person, while 25% did most of their home shopping online. 

More than half, 55% said they think they overpaid for their home, however, 44% of respondents said they do not regret buying in the current market. 

A conversation with Adel Mikhael of Provident Bank

Adel Mikhael – Submitted –

Adel Mikhael is vice president and market manager of Provident Bank in Easton, where he is responsible for developing new business in the Lehigh Valley/western New Jersey market, working with businesses to meet their financial goals.

In addition, he oversees Provident’s Bethlehem and Phillipsburg branches and is responsible for sales management, operational proficiency, coaching and staff development.

Mikhael was most recently a vice president and branch manager with PNC Bank with its Allentown branch. Prior to that he was a vice president and branch manager with Santander Bank.

He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from American University Cairo and he is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Lehigh Valley Business: What are some current trends happening now in relation to providing mortgages to customers? Are you seeing any increase or decrease in the volume of loans distributed?

Adel Mikhael: Prices in April continued to gain traction. The median sale price increased 1.1 percent to $192,000. Closed sales saw an increase of 3.8 percent to 651. Homes continued to sell quickly, lasting on average just 46 days on the market. Inventory levels shrank 10.2 percent to 1,588 units, leading to a month supply of inventory that dropped 12 percent to 2.2 months, yet the volume of loans has increased in the market from the same time last year by 15 percent

LVB: With a strong economy, has it been easier for customers to get a mortgage? Has mortgage lending criteria eased over the years? If so, to what can that be attributed?

Mikhael: The low unemployment rate is providing some reassurance to wary consumers. It’s also been easier to get a mortgage and the criteria has eased slightly from what it was, thanks to new programs offered to first-time home buyers and also lower interest rates.

LVB: As the homebuyer market continues to grow, will interest rates continue to rise as well? If the interest rates rise, how will that affect refinancing for homeowners?

Mikhael: If rates stay low, homebuyer and refinancing markets will continue to grow, but if rates rise it will affect the mortgage market in Lehigh Valley.

LVB: Where do you see the housing market moving in the next five years? Do you think it will continue to remain strong?

Mikhael: I think the housing market will continue to remain strong in the Lehigh Valley, as we see an increase in new construction across the valley, driven by growth in hiring in health care and other companies that are relocating to the valley.