Drawing on his 30 plus years of manufacturing experience and distinguished military service during the Vietnam War, United Community Bank’s newest SBA Manufacturing Lending Manager, Paul Pickhardt, uses his new role to help others attain their greatest hopes.
Pickhardt grew up in Long Island, NY and attended Memphis State University before joining the U.S. Army in 1965. After joining the military, the New York native was selected to attend Armor Officers Candidate School and earned a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.
Pickhardt was then assigned to Vietnam for one year (1967-1968) serving as a platoon leader and troop executive officer in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. For his service, Pickhardt was awarded the Bronze star, Presidential Unit Citation, and Vietnamese Silver Star.
Upon his return, Pickhardt was promoted to Captain and assigned to Ft. Bragg until leaving the service in 1969 to enter private industry.
Pickhardt then embarked on a career in apparel manufacturing that spanned more than three decades and included such companies as Wrangler Jeans, Health-tex Childrenswear, Angelica Uniform and Gerber Childrenswear, working for over 15 years at the executive level as VP of Manufacturing or VP of Operations.
In 2003, Pickhardt began a new career in banking as an SBA loan consultant for various banks. As one of the initial hires for Carolina First Bank’s SBA Lending Division, and throughout the company’s transition to TD Bank, Pickhardt remained one of the top producers at the bank and in South Carolina.
In 2013, the former Manufacturing Executive joined The Palmetto Bank as Senior Vice President, SBA Lending Manager.
As a result of the merger with United Community Bank on Sept 1, Pickhardt was assigned the responsibility of creating a new SBA Manufacturing Lending group with the goal of establishing manufacturing lending opportunities throughout South Carolina, then growing regionally and nationally.
Pickhardt looks forward to blending the expertise he has gained in both manufacturing and SBA lending to provide manufacturers with financing options and improved cash flow with which to operate their business.
In a recent interview with South Carolina Manufacturing, Pickhardt took time to answer a few more questions about his life and career.
- After your time in the service, what steered you into a career in manufacturing?
As I was preparing to leave the military, I realized that I specifically wanted a position that would allow me the opportunity to work with people. I had been given significant leadership responsibilities in the service and found that I had reasonably good managerial capabilities.
- What was your first job in the industry?
I went to work as a manufacturing management trainee for Blue Bell, Inc., the company that manufactured Wrangler Jeans. As part of my training, I was required to cut, sew and finish a pair of Wranglers for myself.
- How often do you draw from your 30+ years of manufacturing experience and apply it to banking?
Not a day goes by that I do not fall back on lessons learned during my days in manufacturing. A sense of urgency, a drive to meet expectations and to satisfy customers, provide solid advice and generate a quality product are, in my opinion, not confined to one single industry.
- Does your years of experience help you to identify trends in the industry today?
I was instrumental in exploring off shore manufacturing in the 1980s. Driven by the need to lower production costs, we moved many manufacturing jobs to Mexico and Central America. I am very happy to see what appears to be a trend to “reshore” manufacturing jobs to the US, providing jobs, benefits and improved customer service to the end user.
- What skills have you taken from your military service and applied to your manufacturing and banking careers?
Pride in what I do, proper use of authority and a drive to succeed.
- If you could point to one event that changed the trajectory of your career, what is it?
Clearly, when I finally decided that my manufacturing career in the US was a losing battle due to off shore competition, I spent significant time researching options. I saw the opportunity to become an SBA lender as a vehicle to apply many of the skills I had learned to a product that would allow me to help people achieve dreams otherwise out of reach.
- When you are not working, what do you like to do?
I enjoy walks around my neighborhood and movies with my wife, spending time with our two grandsons, attending their sporting events and taking them to see kid movies we might otherwise be embarrassed to go see and following certain college and professional teams.
To reach Paul, please contact him at email@example.com.