Danny Pohnl Joins Merchants Bank in Eau Claire as a Commercial Banker

Daniel Pohnl, Commercial Banker

Danny Pohnl has joined the growing team at Merchants Bank in Eau Claire as a Commercial Banker, according to Larry Accola, President for Merchants Bank in Eau Claire.

Pohnl has been in banking since 2011, working in mortgage loans, as a credit analyst and most recently as a commercial banker, all in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro market. He is an experienced SBA (Small Business Administration) Lender, comfortable working with SBA 7(a) and 504 loans. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he had a double major in Accounting and Finance. He is originally from Rhinelander.

“Danny has the background, experience and desire to help business owners reach their goals. He understands our market and is focused on providing exceptional customer service,” Accola said.

Merchants is continuing to add staff to serve customers in the greater Eau Claire area. Over the past six months they have added two mortgage lenders to help customers – with Ben Franko serving people in the Chippewa Valley and Tony Scalzo working with people northwest of Eau Claire.

“I’m excited to be with Merchants Bank. It has an excellent reputation in the banking industry as a community bank with the ability to help with projects of almost any size,” Pohnl said. “I’m especially excited to be with Merchants in Eau Claire because the Bank’s commitment to the market and the growth potential in the market.”

Merchants Bank started serving the Eau Claire market in 2014 when it acquired Alliance Bank in Eau Claire.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including its location in Eau Claire and another Wisconsin location in Onalaska. Minnesota locations include Winona, St. Charles, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, La Crescent, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Industry Snapshot: Food Manufacturing & Wholesale


Get the industry data and financing solutions to make 2018 a success.

In each edition of our Business eNewsletter this year, we’ll be highlighting a different industry to bring you useful data and research. In our January edition, we’re providing a snapshot of food manufacturing and wholesale – an industry we’re proud to serve through both our bank and leasing company.

As a seasonal industry, your food wholesale or manufacturing business may have ended the year on a busy note. But, how optimistic should you feel about 2018?

Here are the latest industry indicators, including data on growth opportunities and potential challenges. Plus, learn how our experienced team of Commercial Banking advisors can help you prepare for another successful year.

2018 Food Manufacturing & Wholesale Forecast

While food manufacturers and wholesalers will face challenges due to the rising cost of fuel and commodity prices, both areas should expect growth in the coming years.

This is no surprise to Shawn Sackman, Merchants Bank Commercial & Ag Lender in Onalaska, “[t]he businesses we serve have always done an outstanding job of meeting customer demands, while still being innovative in a tight industry.”

Predicted Growth between 2017 and 2021

Growth for your industry depends on both food consumption and population growth.

So, what do the numbers say? According to data from Hoovers and First Research:

  • Revenue for US food manufacturers is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 4%, based on changes in physical volume and unit prices.
Food manufacturing growth graph

From Hoover’s/D&B subsidiary First Research. Revenue (in current dollars) for US food manufacturers is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 4% between 2017 and 2021, based on changes in physical volume and unit prices. Data Published: September 2017.

  • Domestic demand for food, an indicator for food wholesalers, is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 3%.
Food wholesalers growth trend graph

From Hoover’s/D&B subsidiary First Research. Domestic demand for food, an indicator for wholesalers, is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 3% between 2017 and 2021. Data Published: September 2017.

Key Industry Indicators

In addition, these indicators provide a more comprehensive picture. This data can help you determine areas of potential progress or risk for the coming months and years depending on your specific products.

Food Demand:

  • US retail sales for food and beverage stores increased 2.2% in the first ten months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
  • Total US wholesale sales of nondurable goods rose 4.7% in September 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
  • US retail sales for food services and drinking places increased 2.8% in the first ten months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Food Distribution: US tourism spending for food services and drinking places increased 3.2% in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Food Manufacturing Demand: US nondurable goods manufacturers’ shipments of food products rose 5.3% year-to-date in September 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Product Values: The consumer price index for food rose 1.3% in October 2017 compared to the same month in 2016.

Industry Competition

Several large companies, including Sysco, McLane, Nestle S.A. and COFCO, dominate the industry when it comes to sales and output. But, small businesses still make up 68% of food manufacturing* in the United States.

As a small sausage producer in La Crosse, WI, Bakalars Sausage Company has seen many changes to the industry in their 53 years of business. “Over the past several years, the industry has gotten tighter with smaller producers getting out of the business,” said Mike Bakalars, Owner. “I’m proud to say that we’re one of the survivors and through a lot of hard work our business has doubled over the past 15 years.”

So how can you differentiate yourself from other businesses in the industry? According to Hoover’s research, here are your best opportunities to stand out in a competitive market:

Product Mix – Food manufacturers typically have one or two extremely successful products or brands, in addition to a mix of specialty items. Identify which of your products constantly produces income and which products may become less popular as consumer tastes change.

For Bakalars, this means a mix of 35 different products overall, including the Schweigert sausage brand and specialty products. “We were fortunate to acquire Schweigerts several years ago. As the official hot dog of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings, it’s been a very stable product line for us while we continue to produce other specialty sausage with smaller demand,” said Mike.

Competing with Chain Distribution – Larger companies, like Wal-Mart, have benefitted from owning the entire process from purchasing to operations. Small wholesalers should consider the cost and time-saving benefits of controlling the entire production process. For example, Bakalars produces, packages and ships their entire product line from their headquarters in La Crosse, WI.

How Merchants Bank Can Help

As a community bank, we work hard to help local businesses – like Bakalars – succeed with the expertise and financial resources you need. We believe that when businesses in our communities thrive, everyone benefits. Merchants is proud to serve many in the food industry from producers to manufacturers to wholesalers, across our footprint.

“We’ve had a longtime partnership with Merchants – since 2003. Their bankers understand how our industry works, and so they understand the banking services we need to be successful,” said Mike Bakalars. “As an industry, we can be seasonal, so they have helped us with understanding and meeting our cash flow needs.”

In addition traditional financing in the form of business loans and lines of credit, we also offer services in the areas of cash management and security.

“In order to make the most of your accounts receivable and payable, we help your company understand how various types of transactions function – which is especially important in the food industry. Each transaction type is unique,” said Becky Herrmann, Cash Management Specialist at Merchants Bank in Onalaska. “Another key is knowing how to protect your funds with the best monitoring and management tools. Our Cash Management team is here to advise you on the solutions that fit your business and answer your questions.”

To learn more about how our Commercial Bankers and Cash Management Specialists can work with your business, contact your local expert.

Additional Resources:



** You will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

Our Top 4 Reasons to Use Floor Plan Financing


If your business manages equipment or vehicle inventory – from cars to power sports, to manufactured homes to implement dealers or other types of floor plans – you know how complicated inventory management can get.

Our efficient and easy floor plan financing system helps you take care of it all from paying off and buying units to inventory management and more.

“We’ve been impressed with the convenience of the floor plan financing system from Merchants Bank. In a matter of a click, I can access balance, payment and payoff information when I need it. Everything we need to manage our inventory is at our fingertips.” – Randy Stevens, Partner at Adamson Motors, Inc.

So, how can floor plan financing benefit your business? Here are our top reasons:

Easy Access to Your Line of Credit
Access to your line of credit when you need it – even from your office. We provide same day funding to our floor plan clients.* Plus, we offer competitive rates and flexible terms tailored to your business.

Increase Efficiencies in Inventory Management
Our floor plan system provides robust reports and data to help you see the whole picture, including turn time of inventory, interest expense and more. Plus, you’ll receive curtailment notifications. 

“We’re proud to offer a floor plan system that rivals what is offered at larger corporate banks,” said Dan Massett, President for Merchants Bank’s Central Region. “It’s easier than ever to access the information you need at your fingertips.”

Better Understand Costs
Tracking your costs, including interest, is easy with our system.

Simple and Intuitive System
You’ll find that our floor plan financing system is user-friendly and tasks you’d like to complete are just a click away, including:

  • Easy process for paying off and buying units.
  • Draft payments and submit directly to the manufacturer on your behalf when you add inventory

“We’re here to help make things easier with a best in class floor plan system and financing options tailored to your business,” continued Massett. “It’s truly important to us at Merchants to get to know your business and find solutions that will help you be successful.”

To learn more about our customized floor plan financing and how it can benefit equipment or vehicle inventory management for your business, visit our website or contact your local Merchants Bank Commercial Banker.


*Same day funding available if initiated prior to Merchants Bank cut-off time.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business Finances


The new year can mean many things for your business. What will the next 12 months look like? Do you have goals for your business and how you plan to get there? Now is the time to review your past financial performance and make plans for 2018.

With this in mind, we’ve put together five financial New Year’s resolutions to help your business make this one of the best years yet.

1. Review Last Year’s Financial Highlights

How did your business perform in 2017? At the most basic level, you should review your business income, expenses, profit and sales.

In addition, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do these numbers compare to last year? Are they better or worse and by how much?
  • Do these numbers align with my business projections for 2017? Why or why not? Are there new income or expenses that should be accounted for in 2018?
  • In what area(s) of my business did I see the most growth?
  • What lessons can I learn from my 2017 business data?

2. Set New Goals
Goal setting does not have to be complicated, especially now that you’ve taken the time to review key numbers from 2017.

It’s as simple as writing down 2 or 3 things you’d like to see your business achieve this year. It could be a goal to reduce expenses in a certain area, to produce a new product or hire additional expertise.

The most important part about goal setting is to be specific so you can measure your success throughout the year. Attaching time frames, numbers, steps it will take to meet your goal and other details can help you know if you’re on track or not.

Once you’ve established your 2018 goals, here’s a fun way to keep them top of mind from the SCORE business blog.

By clicking above you will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

3. Update Software and Processes

Payroll and other business processes can be affected by the change to a new year. Make sure your systems are up-to-date and ready for 2018. It’s also a great time to review your security protocol and procedures, especially if your business collects personal information from your customers.

4. Check in With Your Business Team
Catch up with your accountant, tax advisor, lawyer and banker at the beginning of the new year. Communication between you and your team of expert advisors can be crucial to your business’s success. After all, they want your business to succeed just as much as you do.

“During this time of the year, I like to check in with my business customers and see how they felt about 2017 performance and what’s on tap for 2018,” said Mike Swanson, Commercial Banking Officer in Hastings. “For example, what went well for them in 2017 and what didn’t? Are there any new opportunities or internal changes coming? It’s about keeping the lines of communication open, so I can provide the best solutions going forward.”

As you share your business plans for 2018, your team can also provide updates on things that may affect your business. For example, there may be new taxes or loan programs, changes to business laws and much more.

5. Celebrate Small Successes

We’ve saved this resolution for last, but it’s certainly one of the most important – you deserve to celebrate your business’s successes. Being a small business owner can feel like a never-ending job, so take a minute to give yourself (and your team) some kudos. Celebrating small successes are the steps to celebrating larger ones!

Our team of Commercial & Ag Bankers and Cash Management Specialists are ready to talk about your business plans for 2018. Visit our website to meet our local experts.

Gina Miller Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President and Commercial Banker


Gina Miller, Commercial Banker

Gina Miller has joined Merchants Bank as a Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Shawn Sackman, Senior Lending Officer and Senior Vice President for Merchants Bank’s Southeast Region.

“We are excited to have Gina join our team,” Sackman said. “With her experience, ability and connections, as well as our increased presence in the La Crosse area, we know she will contribute to our continued growth.”

Miller had been with the Wells Fargo organization for the past 17 years, most recently as a Business Relationship Manager/Commercial Banker.

“Merchants is a great match for me because it is a community bank that is built on and values the relationships with its customers,” Miller said. “Building and maintaining those relationships has been my goal throughout my career, and I look forward to continuing that career with Merchants as it gains more market share in our area.”

Miller is a graduate of Viterbo University. She is active in the community. She is a member of the Coulee Region Young Professionals, a member of the Women’s Alliance of La Crosse, and a participant in the Chamber of Commerce’s La Crosse Area Community Leadership Program.

Onalaska is one of the fastest growing of all 21 Merchants’ locations. In 2016, Merchants reported record income of $14,154,891. The Onalaska location was one of the leaders in productivity, with nearly $2.2 million in net income.

In addition to Onalaska, Merchants has Minnesota locations in La Crescent, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has an additional Wisconsin location in Eau Claire. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Jerad Brown Has Joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker


Jerad Brown, Commercial & Ag Banker

Area native Jerad Brown has joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker, according to Ken Graner, President for Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro.

“Jerad has the right mix of experience, interest and personality to be successful as a banker and, more importantly, to help our customers grow,” Graner said. “His work in credit analysis and his interest and experience in business and ag will be a benefit to the people he serves.”

For the past two years, Brown has worked with Rushford State Bank as a credit analyst, looking at agriculture and commercial loans, including an emphasis on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranty program. A graduate of Rushford-Peterson High School and South Dakota State University, he served as a member of the South Dakota State University Livestock Judging Team. At SDSU, Brown majored in Agriculture Science and had minors in Animal Science and Agriculture Business.

“The people who live here are my neighbors. I know what’s important to them, and I know how important it is for our local economy for our farms and businesses to succeed,” Brown said. “I look forward to putting my knowledge and energy to work for Merchants Bank and our customers.”

Meet John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker

Piscitiello, Johncrop

John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker

Get to know John’s commercial banking philosophy and how he helps businesses in the Twin Cities.

Share a little about your background and banking career.

John: I grew up in Winona and went to St. Mary’s University. After graduation, I moved to the Twin Cities, where I currently live with my wife and four boys in Lakeville.

I have been in the lending business my whole career. During the real estate boom years of the 2000s, I was a business owner in the construction lending industry. It was a challenging environment leading up to the economic meltdown. I was fortunate to exit the business before the Great Recession hit, and I learned many great lessons about both the successes and failures of running a business.

What do you like most about your job?

John: When I am able to make a difference helping a client succeed and reach their goals.

What kinds of businesses do you typically work with and how do you help them?

John: My clients are typically family-owned companies located in the Twin Cities market. I help them by providing financing and other banking services where needed, along with ideas and guidance when appropriate.

What is something not many businesses know about work with Merchants Bank?

John: That Merchants is an employee-owned ESOP bank! Being employee-owned has a positive effect on our company culture, and is a nice contrast to the big banks.

How would you describe your partnership with your business customers?

John: It is very much a business partnership. For me to be a good banker for my clients, I need to have a deep understanding of their business and business goals. This helps me to not only provide the services and advice needed, but also allows me to be an advocate for my clients internally within the bank.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?

John: I hope my customers say that I understand them and that they have a banker they can trust to take care of their needs.

What does community banking mean to you?

John: To me, community banking means strong relationships with our clients and with the local markets we serve. Community banking also means local decision-making, which for many business owners can be the difference between feeling understood and getting the service they need versus feeling like your bank doesn’t get you.

Loans are subject to approval.