Baton Rouge-based Investar Holding Corp., the parent company of Investar Bank, reported first-quarter earnings were flat at $2 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with $2 million, or 27 cents per share, a year ago.

Investar increased its total loans by 23.4 percent to $797.6 million and enjoyed an increase in total interest income of 17.9 percent to $10.4 million.

However, noninterest income dropped 49.3 percent to $1.3 million, mainly because of a decrease in the gain on the sale of loans, the bank said.

This year, Investar got out of the indirect auto loan origination business, loans originated by automobile dealerships and assigned to the bank. Those loans are the source of its consumer loans the bank sells. In announcing the move in November, Investar said it wanted to focus more on relationship banking.

In a news release issued Thursday, Investar President and Chief Executive Officer John D’Angelo said the first-quarter results demonstrated the bank’s consistent loan growth and emphasis on credit quality.

New commercial lenders hired at the end of 2015 accounted for a significant portion of loan growth, he said. Those lenders focused on customers with whom they had long-term relationships, which helped both loan growth and noninterest-bearing deposits.

“While pleased with the loan growth during the quarter, our focus remains on credit quality, as evidenced by our passing on over $40 million of loan opportunities during the quarter,” D’Angelo said.