I'm a business owner in the town of Marianna in the northern part of the Florida Panhandle. After Marianna was slammed by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, as the owner of two roofing-related companies, I was in a great position to help my neighbors. The problem was, even after getting electricity turned back on two weeks later, I had limited ability to sell our products. Without telephone and internet service, I couldn't run my credit card terminal, which at the time was essential.
Luckily, I had just started banking with Hancock Whitney and would soon discover the value of working with a truly community-minded institution.
Gary Gochenaur, President of Marianna Metal Roofing, Inc. and Marianna Truss, Inc. was able to quickly provide needed repairs and support after Hurricane Michael to the citizens of Marianna, FL with assistance from the merchant services team at Hancock Whitney.
A Time of Need for Our Community
My wife Debbie and I founded Marianna Truss in 1985. For 34 years we’ve supplied Jackson County and surrounding areas with structural frameworks to support roofs and floors in residential and commercial construction. In 2007, we started a second business, Marianna Metal Roofing, to provide a local alternative to nationwide distributors of metal roofing products. They’ve been great businesses and we’ve enjoyed meeting the needs of our local community.
Those needs became urgent after Hurricane Michael.
Michael was still a Category 5 storm when it struck Marianna, packing winds of 150+ mph in a county where the design load for structures is 110-120 mph. The majority of the roofs on homes and buildings were damaged, mostly from falling trees. The people of Marianna needed materials to repair their roofs and protect their structures from further water damage.
Right after the storm, when we had no power or phone service, we stayed open to do a cash business for inventory we had on hand — such as scrap metal, screws and felt paper — that customers could use to temporarily patch up their roofs.
A couple weeks later, when the electricity was back on, we were again able to manufacture our other roofing products, which were in great demand. However, with most area banks still closed — Hancock Whitney was an exception — many customers weren’t able to withdraw cash for purchases and could only pay with cards. Unfortunately, because the land-line phone service our credit card terminal relied on was still out, we couldn’t sell to them.
To get phone service, we purchased some pay-by-the-month cell phones. We also bought a “hot spot” router device to regain our Internet connection. We had everything we needed for a temporary payments solution, but we didn’t have the expertise to put it all together and get the card terminal working.
That’s when I called Georgeann Adkison, manager of my local Hancock Whitney in downtown Marianna, who put me in touch with Brad Simmons, a merchant services specialist for the bank based out of the Destin area.
A Vacation Detour that Saved the Day
Brad coached us over the phone, but we weren’t getting the problem solved. It was late afternoon and Brad told me he was heading to Key West with his wife for a vacation. He would be driving by Marianna on Interstate 10 and could get off and travel the additional eight miles to our location and trouble-shoot our issue in person.
Brad arrived about 7 p.m. and, with his wife waiting in the car, set out to solve our problem. By 9:30 or 10 he had our credit card terminal working.
The next day we were back in business, doing our part to restore our community by meeting the increased demand for our roofing products. In November, the month after the hurricane, we did seven times as many credit card transactions as in September, the month before the hurricane, representing 18 times the dollar value.
The responsive service we received from Hancock Whitney following Hurricane Michael, from a banker who took the time to help us during his vacation, meant a lot to our business and community. Frankly, it was more than I would have ever thought to ask for — and confirmed I made a very sound decision last year when we chose Hancock Whitney to be our bank.
Gary Gochenaur is President of Marianna Metal Roofing, Inc. and Marianna Truss, Inc.