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Banks scramble for market share

To get an idea of how competitive the banking market is in HernandoCounty, you could ask developer Bill Stout or builder Jerry Beck.

Stout, Beck and other respected Hernando business people were the

organizers behind Gulf Central Bank, a new locally owned bank that the group wanted to open on the county's west side.

But that effort failed when the group failed to sell the $3.4-million in stock necessary to open.

Total bank deposits in Hernando as of Sept. 30, 1989, were $781.4-million, up more than 15 percent from the year before. But banking has remained, by and large, a game for the big boys.

Of the five banks operating in the county, only one, the Hernando County Bank, is regionally owned and operated. Brannen Banks of Florida, which owns the institution, is based in Inverness.

The bank, which opened about two years ago, has captured a little more than 2 percent of the market, and president George Brannen said he is pleased with the growth rate.

SunBank and Trust Co. remains the undisputed Hernando leader with almost half the market. Fast-growing Barnett Bank is slightly ahead of First Florida Bank in the race for second place.

The game could get more complicated this year, however.

Citizens and Southern National Bank of Florida opened two Hernando offices in late 1989.

Another large banking company, NCNB Corp. is poised to move into Hernando. The bank, the largest in the Southeast, is planning to open one branch at Mariner and Northcliffe boulevards by the end of May, and to have two more operating by the end of 1991.

Jim Chandler, the bank's chief spokesman, said NCNB would have preferred to buy an existing bank, along with its existing deposit base, but no banks were available.

That is the strategy undertaken by First Florida in its fight to boost its market share.

The bank announced in late November that it intends to buy Ocala-based Mid-State Federal Savings Bank for $54.2-million. If the sale is approved by regulators, it would double the number of First Florida offices in Hernando and give it more than one-third of the market.

The sale is expected to have little effect on the six offices that

Mid-State operates in Hernando and their employees, according to Mark

Gruetzmacher, senior vice president for First Florida. He said the bank expects regulatory approval of the sale by the second quarter of this year.

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