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Banker Chooses Main Street Over Wall Street

Founder of Empire National Bank, speaks about Long Island's current economic status.

Long Island executive Doug Manditch is not a typical banker.

Over breakfast this past Thursday at Greenway Plaza, he told the Melville-East Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce that he takes his cues from Main Street instead of Wall Street, and reached success because of it. 

Manditch tends to go against the grain in his banking practice. He went out on a ledge by founding two banks during the country’s worst economic times. He started Long Island Financial Corporation, just before the crash in 1990 and built it up to more than $500 million in assets before selling it to New York Community Bancorp in 2005. Wanting to start another community bank, Manditch founded Empire National Bank in 2008, when the recession reached its peak. The bank, which mostly serves privately-owned small and mid-sized businesses, professional practices and not-for-profit organizations, now has three Long Island branches located in Islandia, Shirley and Port Jefferson. 

While the nation’s biggest banks were sinking, Manditch’s bank was sailing well above sea level and even writing loans to small businesses. Perhaps equally as impressive as his financial skills are Manditch’s smarts. The banker reached his current level of success all without a college degree, he told the crowd of about 40 local business leaders.

Emphasizing that his views were his own, and not necessarily that of his corporation, Manditch said that in order for Long Island businesses to succeed, government has to get out of the way. He called industry regulations “oppressive to capitalism.”

An avid opponent of the government bailouts, Manditch said that elected officials should have broken up large banks, rather than consolidating them. 

“I will speak about that until I don’t have any breath left,” he said.

The tumultuous economy isn't the fault of the government though, at least not entirely, he said, pointing to Wall Street as a main factor. “Greed is a huge part of it. People will turn their heads and do anything to make money,” he said.

In order to turn the current financial situation around on Long Island, government needs to make business easier for the private sector, rather than place stricter regulations, Manditch said. For him, this means businesses taking it upon themselves to develop cost-effective means of alternative energy and creating education programs within their fields so that students can skip falling into debt by being forced into expensive universities and get hands on training within their desired work.

He is also a proponent of raising the retirement age to a level on par with today’s life expectancy so that businesses are not as burdened with entitlements. Manditch also suggested simplifying the tax code, closing loopholes and cutting redundant governmental departments.

Manditch impressed the crowd of local business men and women with the success he has reached, despite a rocky economic state.

"Drive and determination are what makes a person successful," he told them.

The next Melville-East Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Series event will take place on April 18 at the Colonial Springs Golf Club in East Farmingdale with Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer serving as the keynote speaker.

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