Magazine article American Banker

An Affluent Pa. County Is Making Many Buyers' Lists

Magazine article American Banker

An Affluent Pa. County Is Making Many Buyers' Lists

Article excerpt

There's something about Chester County, Pa.

At the Mid-Atlantic Super-Community Bank Conference in Baltimore last week, no fewer than four regional bank companies announced plans to start doing business in the county or expand an existing operation there.

The Philadelphia suburb was mentioned so often that Hunter R. Hollar, the president and chief executive officer at Sandy Spring Bancorp in Olney, Md., joked during his presentation, "We may be the only bank with no plans to enter Chester County."

It is one of the fastest-growing and wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania. According to census data, Chester's population grew 15.2% between 1990 and 2000, to 433,501, and its median household income of $59,569 is 60% higher than the state average.

"We're attracted by growing markets," said Richard A. Elko, the president and CEO of $1 billion-asset Patriot Bancorp in Pottstown, Pa. "Our headquarters is right on the border of Chester, so expanding there makes sense geographically. In addition, three of our six directors live in Chester County, which means there are a number of local connections for us to pursue."

He said Patriot is eyeing several sites in the county for new branches, but he added that none would open before 2003.

Buying a bank, however, would accelerate Patriot's expansion plan by a year, Mr. Elko said. "There are several smaller institutions in Chester that make sense for an acquirer to look at. We definitely have our hat in that ring."

At least two other regional banks that participated in the conference hosted by Margolin & Associates of Cleveland -- $1. …

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