Mid America Bank looking at continued growth following change in leadership

By: 
Neal Johnson
Managing Editor of the Unterrified Democrat

With the change in leadership at Mid America Bank following the retirement of long-time president Brian Berhorst, new president Mark Luebbert said he is looking forward to continued growth.

“We appreciate the years of service Brian provided our customers, and the growth he oversaw during his long tenure with Mid America Bank,” said Luebbert, noting the bank has experienced tremendous success and has grown from three branches with $19 million in assets, to five branches and more than $450 million in assets. “We’re going to continue that effort.”

Mid America Bank has a long history, beginning in 1914, when the People’s Bank of St. Thomas was chartered. There it thrived for many years until it was relocated to Meta in 1951 and renamed Meta State Bank.

A second location was opened in Linn in 1978, at which time the bank’s name was changed to Mid America Bank in recognition of its expanding market.

The third branch was opened in 1993 in Wardsville, and a year later, Berhorst began working for Mid America Bank.

During his time with the bank, Berhorst said the key to success was always the relationships built within the company as well as with customers.

“It was while I was at Bank of Freeburg for a couple years that I really learned a lot about relationships,” said Berhorst, a Freeburg native and 1981 graduate of Helias Catholic High School who began his career in banking with Jefferson Bank. “I’ve had a lot of good mentors over the years.”

Harold Westhues and Dick Wilson helped him get started at Jefferson Bank, and when he moved to Exchange Bank, now Hawthorn Bank, in 1985, after graduating from Lincoln University, Berhorst served under the tutelage of Don Campbell, Dave Turner and Jim Vossen.

Berhorst was a commercial lender for nine years at Hawthorn before joining Mid America Bank, which at the time had 10 employees.

“We were a small bank with limited resources for advertising, so we found success by going to events in the community and getting to know people,” said Berhorst. “I had the opportunity to hire great people who bought into the philosophy that we were a family, and that extended to our customers. Trust, loyalty and family values; that’s what made the bank successful.”

With the development of Blair Oaks school district came new housing construction, and Berhorst said being in on the ground floor really helped as well.

“That allowed us to grow at a manageable pace,” he said. “We earned one customer at a time.”

In 2006, the fourth facility opened for business in Holts Summit. A year later, in 2007, a permanent location was constructed there, followed by a temporary facility in Belle, which was opened in 2008. A permanent structure was a constructed there in 2018.

In the interim, due to the bank’s growth, the Wardsville facility was expanded in 2011 to 6,600 square feet and 23 new employees were hired.

Mid America Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014 with events and activities at all of its branches.

CONTINUED GROWTH

A sixth location will be built in Jefferson City, at the corner of Edgewood Drive and Stadium Boulevard, across from the Jefferson City Medical Group building. Mid America Bank will occupy the lower level of the building in a lease-agreement with the property owner, and the facility will offer a full-service menu, including a drive-through and ATMs.

Construction hasn’t begun yet, but Luebbert said the site is being prepared with the hopes construction will start by late September or early October. “If all goes as planned, we’re hoping the branch will be open by the summer of 2020,” Luebbert added.

This development is the first step in the next phase of expansion, which Luebbert said could include another Jefferson City branch or even beyond.

“We have no specific plans at this time, but we’re looking forward to continued growth in whatever form it takes,” said Luebbert, noting that management has been talking about a Jefferson City branch for some time. “It’s been in the works for three or four years, and the timing was right for this expansion. We’ve got good customer relationships in Jefferson City, and we want to make the bank more accessible to those who do business at our other branches, along with adding a convenient option for those who live in Jefferson City.”

At this time, Mid America Bank has 90 employees, led by a “tremendous management team,” Luebbert said. “We have been blessed with great employees throughout the organization. From our tellers to the lending department, our number-one priority is great customer service, and we strive to meet that goal with every visit.”

Executive Vice President Schuyler Mariea agrees. “There have been a lot of advancements in technology and automation, and we have all the bells and whistles, but we value the face-to-face interaction with our customers. We are a country bank with friendly employees who get to know the people with whom we do business.”

That relationship extends beyond the banking facilities, as Mid America Bank is heavily involved in each community it serves.

COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT

“We encourage all of our employees to be active in their individual communities,” said Tim Hagenhoff, who serves as the Community Reinvestment Act officer. “We believe we have an obligation to give back, and banks play a big role in where ‘Main Street America’ will be in 25 years. It’s important to maintain good personal relationships with our customers.”

Mid America Bank employees from the Wardsville and Holts Summit branches volunteer monthly at the Salvation Army in Jefferson City. “We take the food with us, and then serve it at the facility,” said Hagenhoff.

Each year, through Banzai Schools, Mid America Bank employees visit middle-school students in Cole, Callaway, Osage, Miller and Maries counties to teach personal finances.

“This is a project that teaches kids many factors of finances, and how the system works,” said Hagenhoff. “They need to understand the relationship between financing and how it impacts them. Most kids, for example, use a debit card but don’t record transactions in a ledger. They forget what they’ve spent, and then they’re running into a bad situation. We hope to educate these kids on how to maintain their finances.”

Hagenhoff added that even if it’s not a specific fundraiser or community project, employees who wish to give back in other ways are appreciated.

“We want them to do something they like, and not feel like it’s an obligation,” he said. “We have employees that serve on school boards and foundations and other organizations. All of that is important.”

Hagenhoff serves on the Rural Missouri Inc. board of directors and the lending committee for RMI. Typically, the organization offers small-business loans at a lower interest rate to help those in need; recent flooding victims were provided assistance through the program.

Mid America Bank is also active with the United Way, and contributes to a variety of programs, including the Helping Hands Foundation, which is part of Three Rivers Electric Cooperative. Representatives of the bank also actively participate in fair auctions to help youth with their livestock sales.

The Holts Summit branch was constructed to include a community space for small groups as there was no suitable location elsewhere in that community. 

“If it’s community-related, we want to help,” said Hagenhoff. “We support our employees who take an active role.”

Community involvement is one of the factors when a new location is considered.

That, along with extreme financial strength and stability, are very important, said Mariea.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Luebbert said news of Berhorst’s retirement was well-received by employees when the announcement was made July 25, and business is proceeding as usual, with Luebbert serving as both bank president and chairman of the eight-member board of directors. There have been no other changes to management at this time.

“We are planning to move experienced employees to the new facility to help with the transition, which means we will hire additional people to work at the branches with openings,” said Luebbert, noting he anticipates hiring another six or seven people, pushing Mid America to nearly 100 employees in total. 

“With more 100 years of serving our customers, Mid America Bank has a proud and growth-filled heritage that we intend to continue for many years to come,” said Luebbert.

Berhorst said he is hopeful the bank will continue to succeed, and he will miss many elements of the business he oversaw for a quarter-century.

“I’’ll miss the employees the most, and my customers,” he said. “I always enjoyed helping customers better their lives, be it buying a new home or expanding their business.”

Berhorst said he plans to pursue other business opportunities and spend more time with his family now that he’s retired.

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