Dr. Michael Willens' Story
Dr. Michael Willens was renting an office space near Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, but as his business grew, he needed a larger space with more visibility. He always wanted to buy property in the Mandarin area, specifically near the intersection of San Jose Boulevard and Interstate 295, so he decided to purchase two acres of land in the area. “Originally, I just wanted an office for myself,” Willens said, “I just wanted a small office, but because it was such a large piece of property, I had to figure out what the best way to utilize the property was.” That’s when Willens contacted Community First.
Having already been a member of Community First for his personal banking needs, Willens decided to inquire about our business banking products and services. “It became very clear that what I needed was a local financial institution – one that was going to be interested in me and my business and help grow the community.” As Willens mentions in his video, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know. From the very beginning, I didn't know anything about financing, I didn't know what I could afford, and I didn't know what the risks were.”
Willens met with John Keeley, a Business Lending Officer at Community First. Having recently purchased his property, Willens had many questions. “Can I put my new office on the property? If so, how do I do that? How do I structure it?” Together, Willens and Keeley came up with the idea to create an office park that would house both his practice, as well as other spaces that he could use for future development and investment.
Keeley consulted with a contractor and others to learn what was needed for site development, such as retention ponds, parking spaces, and other considerations. It was important to collaborate with experts, so that when the time came to build Willens’ office, the team had the foresight to look at the other three spaces and prep for the day when they could build on them in phases. “Community First referred me to trusted people so I had an accountant, a good real estate attorney, an architect, a great builder and developer, and all these folks had a lot of experience,” said Willens.
Keeley has been with Willens every step of the way. He even helped him understand the benefits of creating a holding company for his commercial building and land development activity, and keeping that business separate from the operating account for his clinic. “It was really important to have somebody who was interested in me, my development, became my friend, and knew my needs,” said Willens about Keeley. “It was very frightening for me to begin to do land development. I had never done anything like this before. I knew I was getting into something very big and to be able to have people that I could actually trust and count on and help guide me through it was absolutely essential.”
Today, Willens has his Commercial Mortgage with Community First, as well as his Business Checking account and a Line of Credit. He’s an active user of our Online Banking platform and frequents the Mandarin Branch.