Homecoming gratifying for former Old Kent president

TRAVERSE CITY – Like many who have left the Grand Traverse region to pursue new career opportunities, John Paul could never get Traverse City off his mind. Like a scene from a favorite movie one plays over and over, it was impossible for Paul to shake the images of the area from his mind.

It goes without saying, then, that when the opportunity arose for Paul and his family to move back to Traverse City, he more than jumped at the chance.

In March, he and his family returned to Traverse City so that Paul could take on his new role as Executive Vice President of the soon-to-open Bank of Northern Michigan. In a previous life, Paul served as the president of Old Kent Bank in Traverse City for over 12 years, a position he gave up in 1997 when he accepted a larger role within the company and transferred to Kalamazoo.

At Bank of Northern Michigan, Paul's current task at hand is assembling and training a team of employees. The Bank is leasing two levels of office space on Union Street in the Weaver Building (in the former Christian Science Reading Room) targeting a mid- to late-summer opening.

Eventually, Bank of Northern Michigan will construct a more permanent location in Traverse City (the former Kinney's site is being considered). Until then, Paul is focusing on establishing and enhancing his relationships in the community.

"The last two months have been very gratifying," he said. "I've reconnected with a lot of friends and contacts. It feels very much like coming home."

Paul's emotional ties to the area run deep. Two of his four children were born in Traverse City, and all of them spent a portion of their formative years here. Friendships were melded between Paul and his wife, Susan, and several other couples and families in the area, and countless memories were made.

It is for these reasons that Paul was always looking for a way to return to northern Michigan. So when the call came informing him of Bank of Northern Michigan's desire to add to its Petoskey and Gaylord locations and open a bank in Traverse City, something ignited within Paul.

"When you spend a number of years in a community and raise your family there, you develop strong relationships and long lasting friendships," said Paul. In addition to their Traverse City ties, the Pauls have family in Cheboygan, which only furthered their desire to return north.

"It was clear to my wife and I that we wanted to get back, back to an area that we truly loved."

Not only was Traverse City the perfect fit for the Pauls, but with an MBA, over 28 years in the banking business and many ties with individuals and businesses within the Grand Traverse region, John's expertise and background made him an ideal fit for Bank of Northern Michigan. BN