Mike Armentor Carries On Family Tradition
2013 Chairman Of The Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce
By Lisa Hanchey
Keeping with the family tradition, Mike Armentor is following in his father Eric Armentor’s footsteps by serving at the helm as Chairman of the Board for the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce. In 2013, Mike will start his second consecutive year as leader of the successful business organization. Dad Eric preceded him as chair in 1987. This is the first time in the history of the 73-year-old GICC that father and son have served as Chairman.
Eric and Mike’s family owns Armentor Jewelers, an independent jewelry store established in 1939 by Eric’s father, Junius Armentor. Its first location was launched in downtown New Iberia, and is now located at 1020 East Dale Street. In 1989, the business expanded to Abbeville at 1303 North State Street. The store opened a location in Lafayette at the Parc Lafayette shopping center on 1921 Kaliste Saloom Road in 2011. Now in its 73rd year, Armentor Jewelers spans three generations. Currently, Armentor serves as COO, and Eric is still involved with the business.
A Full Calendar
Like his dad, Armentor has a strong business background and a commitment to community service. Mike is also dedicated to his family—Jenn, his wife of 13 years, and their four children—Kate, age 7; Audrey, 6; Jillian, 3, and Eric, III, 2. “I figured that at this point, my life is dedicated to responsibility and trying to raise my family, be a good business person, support my staff, who is my extended family, and doing some things for the community,” he says. “I keep a very full calendar that I keep referring back to so that I am sure I know where I am. It’s a challenge at times, but it tends to work out. If you dedicate enough time, you can make things happen.”
Through his father’s involvement, Armentor learned about the Chamber from an early age. “The presence of the Chamber was always a part of my life,” he recalls. “I remember my father going to meetings and telling me about what they did. I knew that it was an organization that was important to businesses.”
In 2008, Armentor joined the Leadership Iberia class sponsored by the Chamber. “I got to meet the staff at that point and spend some time with some of the Chamber board members, and got to know a little bit more about what they did,” he says. “I also learned about the community. It was a good experience.”
Janet Faulk-Gonzales, president/chief executive officer of the Chamber, got to know Armentor while he was a member of Leadership Iberia’s Development Committee. “He has a lot of energy,” she says. “He’s very in tuned to the retail market.”
During his stint in Leadership Iberia, Armentor co-founded On Tap, an incentive designed to involve people under age 40 in the community. “On Tap began as a professional development program geared towards strengthening future young leaders personally so that they could become better citizens,” he explains. “They can really help foster change and give a new progressive attitude to our community, to our officials and to the way that people outside of our parish and our state really view us here. We want to encourage people to stay in New Iberia and make their homes here.”
In 2011, Armentor joined the Chamber Board, quickly ascending to the executive committee as third vice-president. He assumed the role as Chair in July, 2012. “I am proud to follow in my father’s footsteps,” he says. “I have always looked up to my father’s civic responsibility and the organizations that he was a part of. He always found that it was important to have a presence and give back to the community, because the community has supported our business to continue to grow. I am proud to share that philosophy and be able to take part in a similar fashion.”
Over the last six months, Armentor has become more familiar with the processes and procedures of how the Chamber operates. For 2013, he intends to put his talents and skills to work as chairman. This will be put to the test in January, when the board holds its annual planning meeting to set goals for the year.
During his first full term, Armentor’s primary goal is to keep the Chamber’s membership growing. “My main objective is to keep the positive momentum that the Chamber has experienced over the last few years,” he says. “I think that we have been growing, not only financially, but also in the impact that we have provided to Iberia Parish. So, this year, I’d like to reintroduce the Chamber to the local business community, and encourage people to become a part of it. We are only as good as the participation of our members, so we want our membership to be strong. And, if business owners are not familiar with what we’ve done in the last few years, then I think they owe it to themselves to check out the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce and become a member.”
Another goal is to increase the census numbers for Iberia Parish. “The truth is that over the last 20 years, Iberia Parish has not seen much growth as far as for population, lots of new businesses and significant economic impact,” he says. “That is part of what the Chamber is trying to address. We have a few specific things that we have been working on to do that. The last census spurred conversation within the Chamber board and some of our committees that we really have to help to do something, because we are not experiencing the growth that we really would like to see.”
Faulk-Gonzales agrees that the census is a big issue for the business community. However, she is confident that Armentor is up to taking on that task. “We are all concerned about the census count for Iberia Parish, and the quality of life issues that keep young families here and bring new families to the community,” she says. “So, Mike is very in tune with all of that.”
On the other hand, the Chamber itself has seen growth in several areas. “I think we’ve helped to develop some good leadership,” Armentor says. “We have a good board, and we have a great staff. Financially, we’ve grown a lot through some of our fundraisers. We’re putting on more events than ever, and providing more ways to try to help businesses.”
One of the Chamber’s strongpoints is its Legislative and Governmental Affairs Committee, which gives members an opportunity to voice their concerns and suggest ideas for improvement. The committee also brings legislation to the board that would potentially affect the business environment of Iberia Parish. Additionally, it sponsors events like Eggs and Issues and political forums to keep the community informed.
“We’ve built up that legislative committee over the last few years, and really think that it has made its presence known in Iberia Parish,” Armentor reports.
The Chamber also offers professional development classes through a “building winning businesses” initiative. These courses provide excellent opportunities for business owners, managers, salesmen and staff to develop their job skills. “I’d like to continue that as a way of showing that the Chamber really does care about the individual businesses in the community and its members,” Armentor says.
Another Chamber program Armentor intends to develop is Operation Progress, which blossomed from a Chamber committee idea into a parish-wide action plan. “Operation Progress’ purpose is to bring rooftops and progress into Iberia Parish,” Armentor explains. “It is designed to come up with ways to stop the negative population trend and show some growth. Its focus is on some major aspects of things like quality of life issue and trying to maximize gems like our airport, Port of Iberia, downtown and our people, the good resources that we have. And, to encourage people and businesses to relocate here.”
Now that the outline is in place, Operation Progress is in the process of gathering concrete suggestions from the community as to how to make improvements parish-wide. “In 2013, we want to aggressively push that out and get backing from some community stakeholders—civic groups, organizations, neighborhoods, individuals—who want to work towards a progressive Iberia Parish,” Armentor says. “It’s taken a little while to get developed, but I think now it’s perched and ready to be brought out into the community, and to join forces to show that we are ready for some progress.”
Under Armentor’s leadership, the Chamber is ready to move forward in the New Year. “Mike is a very good problem solver, and he has a great creative mind also,” Faulk-Gonzales says. “He has a lot of respect from the other board members. So, we are really looking forward to a great 2013.”