New frontiers_ new jersey banks find growth opportunities in diverse, once-overlooked markets of south jersey _ njbiz

More than 30 acquisitions in about 10 years — that’s the record Thomas Shara brought to Lakeland Bank in 2008 when moved there from Mahwah-based Hudson United Bank, which has since been acquired by TD Bank.

He brought an aggressive growth model with him that has played itself out over the past three years, with Lakeland Bank making a trio of deals that brought it to within the Top 5 largest independent community banks in the state.

Lakeland’s streak began with a 2013 acquisition of Somerset Hills Bank, a deal initially valued at $64.4 million. Fresh pasta sauce from scratch It then announced it was buying Waldwick-based Pascack Community Bank last August. Sauce for pasta and vegetables That deal closed in January, only a month before it announced plans to also swallow Jackson-based Harmony Bank.

Its competitor, OceanFirst Bank, also struck three deals within a three-year span under the leadership of Christopher Maher, who previously served at the helm of Connecticut-based Patriot National Bancorp.

OceanFirst Bank announced in February 2015 that it was acquiring Colonial American Bank in a roughly $11 million deal, before moving on to merge with Cape Bank and announcing plans to merge with Ocean City Home Bank for $146 million and nearly $200 million, respectively.

“The institutions in South Jersey and along the Shore — Cape May and Ocean counties — for the longest time didn’t have any buyers,” said Musso, CEO of the consulting firm. Homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch recipe “There was nobody really interested in going into that marketplace.

“But when OceanFirst decided to become an acquirer, we now had a buyer — and there was a rush of deals in the area. Making homemade pasta sauce If OceanFirst had not done that, those institutions would probably still be down there.”

On top of not having the same business density of some its neighbors, these areas of the state — particularly the Jersey Shore — have certain quirks that steered others away.

“People don’t bank places just because they have a vacation home there, so once you’ve captured the primary homeownership market in those counties, you pretty much own the market.”

Oak Ridge-based Lakeland Bank closed on a deal valued at $32 million July 1 to acquire Harmony Bank, based in Jackson, giving the institution several branches in Ocean County. Homemade italian sauce for pasta It was the bank’s first foray into the Jersey Shore and away from its historic central and northern New Jersey stronghold.

Thomas Shara, CEO and president of Lakeland, said Ocean County’s market alone has $10 billion in deposits and around 10,000 small businesses, more than some North Jersey counties that are often touted as the place to be for banks.

“And our niche is small business lending, so it seemed like a terrific market for us,” he said. Homemade pasta sauce canned tomatoes “We also saw the growth in Ocean County as a result of the rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy and wanted to participate in that.”

Still, Lakeland’s merger with Harmony Bank gave it only three branches in Ocean County — less than it now would like to have — so it’s weighing another move.

“We wouldn’t be satisfied with that,” Shara said. Tomato pasta sauce with cream “So the thought is we’ll do additional acquisitions down in this market or create (more branches).”

In NJBIZ’s banking-centric Spotlight almost exactly two years ago, Don Musso of FinPro Capital Advisors declared that the state’s banking sector was a veritable feeding frenzy.

Food-chain-topping banking institutions were rapidly gobbling up smaller banks in a habitat that compelled those smaller banks to seek mergers and acquisitions in order to survive.

“Now, particularly in the northern half of the state, you have more potential buyers than sellers — which is the exact reverse of what we had two years ago,” Musso said.

“Take a state like Kansas, where there’s 200-some shops — you’re still going to see rapid consolidation in a place like that,” said Musso, CEO of the Gladstone-based firm. How to make homemade pasta sauce from scratch “We just don’t have that plethora of institutions anymore, so I think you’ll see (mergers and acquisitions) slowing down here.”

“We don’t have a lot of institutions between $500 million to $1 billion (in assets) anymore,” Musso said. Homemade easy pasta sauce “We’ve got smaller ones and bigger ones, but the middle market has been decimated, as that’s where most the mergers happened.”

Sandy’s impact was particularly felt by OceanFirst, given that many of the bank’s customers were devastated by what was the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. Homemade pasta sauce crock pot history.

“The storm was certainly a terrible event,” Maher said. Homemade pasta sauce recipe “If there was a silver lining — it was that there has been an opportunity to rebuild.”

OceanFirst issued nearly 300 residential construction loans between the time Sandy occurred and the end of 2015. White sauce recipe for pasta and chicken It also provided $500,000 in grants to local charities through its OceanFirst Foundation, fueling the rebuilding effort.

“What these markets are ideally suited for is community banks,” he said. Tomato sauce recipe for pasta easy “Every loan we make gets decided here in southern New Jersey. Homemade pasta sauce in crockpot … And when you reside in the market you serve, you understand things that a national bank can’t.”