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Northwest Bank’s downtown Johnstown branch is one of 42 in line to close its doors at the end of the year, the Warren-based company said.

Northwest’s announcement comes as banks across the nation are adjusting to a digital age that is seeing a growing number of people turning from face-to-face service to online and mobile banking to handle their transactions – and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated that, Northwest company officials said.

“Our customers’ banking preferences continue to evolve to favor a more digital banking experience and the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified and accelerated these preferences,” President and CEO Ronald Seiffert said. “This branch optimization plan reflects our ongoing efforts to ensure we are well positioned in our industry to provide the community bank experience that is valued by our customer base while also enhancing our strong digital and mobile banking presence.”

That plan will cut 20% of the bank’s more than 200 branch offices, as well as one stand-alone drive-thru.

Seiffert said closures are spread out across Northwest’s footprint – Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Indiana.

And that contains a mix of urban, suburban and rural locations, Communications Manager Melanie Clabaugh said.

Transaction volume, online customer volume and other factors were all weighed – as well as the location’s proximity to other Northwest banks, she said.

Clabaugh was unable to provide employment numbers for the 225 Franklin St. office. But she said some – “unfortunately, not all” – employees at those 42 locations will shift to nearby bank offices.

The company will be giving severance packages for their years of service, she said.

Northwest will continue to operate its Westwood Plaza location, at 1918 Minno Drive, and Richland location, at 475 Theatre Drive.

Still, it’s unfortunate news for downtown Johnstown, which saw First Commonwealth close a downtown location over the past year, Mayor Frank Janakovic said.

Banks, a business district mainstay for generations, are closing their doors at a time Johnstown is filling other vacancies and bringing people back downtown, he added.

“It’s a disappointment to see any bank or business close, especially right now when we’re trying to rejuvenate our downtown,” Janakovic said.

For downtown residents, Janakovic said he’s thankful a number of local banks continue to have a presence in the heart of the city “because a lot of our residents down here have limited access to travel.”

In a release to media, Northwest said the Franklin Street location’s customers are being notified of the decision by mail.

When the branch consolidation occurs Dec. 15, customers' service won’t be interrupted, company officials said.

Terms and conditions of their accounts will remain the same and they will still have access to that account through ATMs, online and mobile banking, as well as live service through Northwest’s contact center.

Northwest isn’t the only bank announcing branch closure plans this month.

Allegheny County-based Key Bank and PNC Bank both announced cost-cutting closures earlier in the month.

PNC officials said their company’s intent is to close 280 locations by late 2021, continuing a trend of shutdowns that will see the banking giant’s offices go from nearly 2,500 a few years ago to approximately 1,950 at the end of next year.

Wheeling-based WesBanco also announced plans to close 20 branches last week – approximately 10% of its footprint.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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