Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 4:00 PM on Wednesday, November 2, 2011

State Farm agent puts down roots in Homer

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

State Farm Agent Mike Barth, center, and team members Jeff Vance, left, and Jon Becker, right, offer more than 100 State Farm products from offices at 3726 Lake St., Suite C. They also will have a booth at the 28th annual Rotary Health Fair at Homer High School, Nov. 12.

Little more than three years ago, a friend who was a State Farm agent asked Mike Barth how his career was going. The question became a pivotal point in Barth's life, with Barth opening a State Farm office at 3726 Lake St., Suite C, in June.

He and his team members, Jon Becker and Jeff Vance, provide the 100-plus products available from State Farm, with car, home, boat, life, health and business insurance topping the list. State Farm also has a virtual bank, complete with checking and saving accounts, home and auto loans and a variety of credit card products.

Office hours are 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Evening hours are available by appointment.

At the time his friend posed the question, Barth, who has an educational background in economics and business, was general manager of a plumbing company in Anchorage.

"What's important to me are high ethical standards," said Barth, who carefully weighed his friend's suggestion. "If I was going to make a change, I wanted to make sure the company was solid."

After much consideration, Barth met with a State Farm manager and was pleased when they "hit if off." He discovered they were aligned on Barth's thoughts concerning entrepreneurship, as well as the flexibility he wanted to have to spend time with family.

"So then the real work began," said Barth. "I was running a plumbing company, going to school full-time, my second son had just been born and it was a six-month learning process (with State Farm). It was crazy, a good warm-up."

What followed was a year working with a State Farm agent in Eagle River.

"It was a good experience to see if I liked it. It was good exposure and really focused on building a foundation," he said.

The location also proved beneficial.

"Eagle River is a good area to cut your teeth," he said. "It's small. Similar to Homer."

From there, Barth spent two years working with the company at its Anchorage location, in a training position to become an agent.

Along the way, Barth applied to have his own office. When State Farm decided to open another Kenai Peninsula office, he did some market research to pinpoint a suitable location. Although there are State Farm agents in the central peninsula, that area proved the most suitable due to the population, with Homer a close second.

The other part of Barth's research had to do with where he and his wife, Amanda, and their two sons — Brock, 5; and Zane, 3 — most wanted to live on the peninsula. In that category, Homer was first choice.

"This is a community. It's where we wanted to raise the kids," said Barth of choosing Homer before other Kenai Peninsula locations. "Also, I like doing business that way, in a community where you see your clients at the pool, at church or wherever."

In June, the family relocated and Barth's goal of having his own office became a reality.

"It's been a wild ride, with adventures and challenges," he said of the last five months.

The office layout is a roomy 1,600-square feet, which allows for expansion when needed.

"At some point the focus shifts from new clients to serving those clients," said Barth of taking it one step at a time.

The office's interior design has a comfortably professional appeal.

"I wanted something that was professional because we take care of serious stuff here for people," said Barth.

However, professional as he may be, Barth's appreciation for a southern peninsula lifestyle is evident in an office wall tastefully decorated to resemble a "woodpile" design and in the life agent video on his State Farm website.

Barth is immersing himself in activities that come with living here. A recent boat-owner, he is getting familiar with operating on Kachemak Bay before venturing into Cook Inlet. A 12-year hockey coach, Barth and his sons are involved with the Homer Hockey Association's Microbells, a learn-to-skate program for ages 3-6. Last week, Barth spent the day at Homer High School, talking to students about driver safety.

He also is involved in Rotary and will have a booth at the upcoming Rotary Health Fair, Nov. 12.

Summing up his professional, as well as personal reaction to being in Homer, Barth said, "I'm excited to be here."

For more information, visit www.statefarm.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben. jackinsky@homernews.com.