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December 20, 2016

Only an idiot would buy it

MIDFLORIDA is headquartered in the historic Marble Arcade building in Downtown Lakeland, which originally began construction in 1925.

When I started my banking career in 1978, I worked for a bank headquartered in downtown Indianapolis. The bank’s headquarters, built in 1914, was a stately 16-story office building called the Fletcher Savings and Loan Building. I grew up in a small Indiana town where a building with an elevator was a big deal. So, having the opportunity to work in downtown Indianapolis in such a grand building was an incredible privilege.

I joined MIDFLORIDA in 1992 and, at the time, our headquarters was the second level of the South Lakeland branch. When I visited downtown Lakeland for the first time and saw the Marble Arcade, it reminded me of the Fletcher Building. I immediately thought it would make a great headquarters for our credit union. But I have to admit, I didn’t for even a minute think that MIDFLORIDA, with only about $100 million in assets at the time, would ever be large enough to afford such an awesome building.

However, about eight years later I was in the Hollingsworth Branch when a manager came up to me and asked if I had heard that the Marble Arcade was for sale. I said I hadn’t, and he proceeded to comment that, even though it was for sale, “only an idiot would buy it.” I replied, “I might be that idiot.” The reason he felt the purchase might be unwise was because the building doesn’t have any permanent parking.

Once I discovered that the building was for sale, I called the real estate agent and asked to tour the building with our board of directors. She was surprisingly aloof, but agreed to show us the building. After the tour, the board agreed that we should make an offer on the building, contingent on arranging parking with the city. I called the agent and said that we were ready to make an offer. However, she was reluctant to meet and work on our offer. I suspected that she had another client and was delaying our bid.

Well I’m persistent, so I called our real estate attorney for advice. Out of pure luck, he was a personal acquaintance of the owner. So, I instructed him to make an offer directly to the owner of the building. This was fortuitous, because after making the direct offer, we discovered that the agent did have another potential buyer and actually did not have a listing contract on the property. To make a long story short, we quickly cut a deal directly with the owner and, of course, the rest is history.

We have been in what we now refer to as the MIDFLORIDA Tower for 15 years and have grown to more than $2.5 billion in assets.

(According to my wife I’m still occasionally an idiot, but I would argue that purchasing the MIDFLORIDA Tower might have actually been one of my better crazy ideas!)


“Every Branch Has a Story” is a blog series by Kevin Jones, President/CEO of MIDFLORIDA and an employee of the credit union since 1992. The blogs chronicle the history of the MIDFLORIDA branches, and discusses how each came into existence. Read more.