Hoping to revamp its image, New York's First National Bank of Rochester has unveiled a program to help new and expanding businesses with outright grants.

"We're the only community bank in Rochester, but we're not always perceived as that," said Robert B. Bantle, a senior vice president at the $275 million-asset institution.

Federal regulators in 1990 ordered the blank to address alleged violations of insider loan regulations. Last year's appointment of a new chief executive, R. Carlos Carballada, is one of the remedial steps the bank has taken -- and Mr. Carballada now wants to restore the bank's stature in the community.

Under First National's "Banking on Rochester" program, the bank will match with bank funds one-half of 1% of any new loan or deposit through July 7. The bank then will donate the money -- it hopes to reach a total of $150,000 -- to small businesses in amounts up to $5,000.

"That's quite a lot of money for a small bank to give away," Mr. Bantle said, "but we were looking for something to give us an impact as a community bank. We feel we can be a strong player in this niche, but we didn't have much of an identity in the marketplace at all."

Recipients of the grants will be selected by an independent panel of economic development specialists. The first recipient, Amateur Sports Program Inc., was named last week.

Amateur Sports annually runs 400 football, softball, volleyball, and soccer tournaments at the state and national level, and last year attracted an estimated $2.5 million in tourist dollars.

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