Business First National Bank, founded in Santa Barbara in 2001, is merging with Paso Robles based Heritage Oaks Bancorp, the two announced on 5/29. Joanne Funari, Business First’s founder and president, will continue as president of the Business First division of Heritage Oaks Banks, while Heritage Oaks Bancorp CEO Lawrence Ward will lead the combined operation. “This is not just a business thing; it’s near and dear to my heart, so it has to be a successful marriage.” The rest of her executive team–most of whom, like Funari, are former employees of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust-will accompany her in the transition.”We took a lot of time,” said Funari, “to find a good partner that shared our values and culture, because we built a phenomenal culture here.” She added, “We’re the Cheers of banking.” Heritage Oaks, with three branches in Santa Maria and nine in San Luis Obispo County, is paying $20.6 million for Business First’s two Santa Barbara branches, one located on State Street and one on Milpas Street. The amount is to be paid as $3.44 in cash and approximately 0.58 shares of Heritage Oaks common stock, for a total value of $13.69 per share, accruing to 2008 earnings. The combined organization will have deposits of approximately $600 million, with total assets of $750 billion. Along with its larger assets, Heritage Oaks’ state charter translates into an increased lending limit, of up to 25 percent of its capital base for a single entity. Business First will also be able to expand into mortgage lending, which is does not do currently. Pending approval by regulatory agencies and Business First shareholders, the banks’ operations are expected to be integrated by the final quarter of 2007.