By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
MANDEVILLE – Joe Omner has a vision for St. Tammany Parish to grow and some of those thoughts include the way things used to be in New Orleans.
With so many residents of St. Tammany actually coming from the South Shore, including Omner, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Florida Parishes Bank in Mandeville wants to see a connection between communities from the east to the west, and from the north to the south.
“One thing I always remember growing up in New Orleans was the way you could walk on sidewalks from one part of the city to the other,” he said. “Can you imagine how nice it would be in St. Tammany if a kid could walk or ride their bike on sidewalks from neighborhoods to the lakefront in Mandeville?”
Yes, Omner values the “way it used to be,” but as a lifelong banking executive he is particularly interested in seeing the parish continue growing, but to retain the North Shore quality of life that has attracted so many.
“We’ve always had the available land and the interstate system for the North Shore, but we have not had the infrastructure to support businesses the way we can now,” he said.
Omner can speak from experience since he has been in banking on the North Shore since 1980, including a major stint with the former Parish National Bank for 21 years where he was the Chief Operating Officer. He has also lived in Mandeville since 1980.
Focusing his career on commercial lending for most of his banking years, he came to Florida Parishes Bank in 2013 because it offered the local bank advantages with big bank ideas. Florida Parishes has been around for 94 years and has locations throughout Tangipahoa and St. Tammany.
“Florida Parishes is much like the former Parish National Bank, truly a local bank that can make things happen in ways the bigger banks can’t,” he explained. “We look at more than the credit score and can work around certain situations.
“It’s a little cliché, but we really do think outside the box to help make a difference,” he said. “We say that we ‘deal local and feel local’ and it’s really true. We consider ourselves as trusted advisors to our clients.”
Omner isn’t the only commercial lender at Florida Parishes Bank with years of experience. He has put together a team that includes many who have been with him for years.
Mike Prenger is a commercial lender and Vice-President who has 20 years of experience, Denise Jackson is a Senior Vice-President and commercial lender with 15 years of banking experience and Leigh Harrison is a Senior Vice-President and mortgage lender with many years of mortgage banking experience.
Supporting the team of lenders is Nicole Seilhan, an Administrative Assistant with 10 years of experience; Francine Ferarra, an Administrative Assistant also at the Mandeville branch since it opened; and Meghan Levine, a Customer Service Representative with who has been at the branch since it opened.
“Why come here when there are so many other banks?” Omner asked. “We have an organization that offers a customer focused sales culture. It may sound hokie but we really do care. And even if we have to say ‘no’ we still try to help you figure out how to turn it into a ‘yes.’”
Omner grew up in New Orleans the son of a butcher at the old Raphael’s grocery store on Banks Street. He was involved in sports and playing guitar, but knew he wanted to enter business after watching his father.
Earning business degrees at UNO and the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Texas, he worked at the old Krauss’ Department Store in the Credit Department, then got a job at the National Bank of Commerce in collections.
“It’s where you learn what loans not to make,” he said with a laugh.
Moving to the North Shore in 1980 with his wife and eventually three kids, Omner has built a reputation as one of the most trusted commercial lenders on the North Shore.
“My desire to help see St. Tammany grow is because in 1980 we all drove to New Orleans to work every day. Now kids can get quality, professional jobs on the North Shore,” he said.
“We want to keep attracting industry and business here,” he said. “And I want to help that happen by supporting the businesses with true, local banking.
“We can do large or small loans and everything in between,” he added. “This is not a sleepy, little bank. We have the experience, the capital and the desire to help get your business going and keep it going.”
Omner can be reached at the Mandeville branch, located at 2909 Hwy. 190, at 985-345-2265.