BY KATHY GIBBONS firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Mark Eckhoff, Fifth Third Bank Northern Michigan’s president and CEO, will retire as of May 31.
Eckhoff, 56, plans to get a real estate license and go to work with Three West in Traverse City, which specializes in commercial real estate and business consulting.
“With my banking background and experience, I’m pretty excited because I think that’s a pretty good fit for me,” Eckhoff said.
He’ll be replaced by George B. Bailey III, 52, current executive vice president and head of Fifth Third’s Western Michigan Commercial Banking Division.
Bailey already has been learning the ropes, from slinging buffalo burgers at the recent Northwestern Michigan College Barbecue to attending a Rotary meeting. He’ll carry on in both roles until a replacement for him is named in Grand Rapids.
Eckhoff has been with Fifth Third for 28 years. He started with the corporation in his hometown of Cincinnati and came to Traverse City to manage Fifth Third’s retail and consumer banking operations almost 13 years ago. He became president and CEO in 2006.
Presiding over the bank’s northern Michigan operations during some tough economic times was not without challenges, Eckhoff said. But he’s pleased with the way the bank was able to weather those years and confident about the future.
“They took a real aggressive stance at dealing with any issues that we could deal with that would make us a ... stronger bank,” Eckhoff said. “We faced all our problems, we got everything fixed and the bank is doing really well.”
Traverse City is a magnet for entrepreneurs, which he said helps drive the local economy.
“I think we’re going to continue to attract people that are going to start their own businesses and create employment opportunities for the people here,” he said.
Bailey, who joined Fifth Third in 1995 and has about 30 years of industry experience, has overseen Fifth Third’s commercial banking for most of the state. He predicts manufacturing, the building trades and tourism will help drive commercial growth in northern Michigan.
“I think we’re hitting on almost all cylinders on the west side of the state,” he said. “We think this is a market that’s going to grow and we certainly want to grow with it.”