Between May 1997 and November 1998, Zions Bancorp. snapped up no fewer than 10 small Colorado banks.

Then it put the brakes on dealmaking in the state, hired a former Bank One Corp. executive, and started assembling the 10 under Vectra Bank Colorado, the name of a bank it bought in 1998.

Now the Salt Lake City company appears ready to start another shopping spree in the state. Late Tuesday it announced that it had agreed to purchase Minnequa Bancorp Inc. in Pueblo, a $315 million-asset holding company specializing in small-business and middle-market clients.

The companies did not disclose the price, but $22 billion-asset Zions is to pay stock and cash in “a relatively even split,” said Bruce K. Alexander, the former Bank One executive. Mr. Alexander became president and chief executive of Vectra Bank early last year.

“Creating a common infrastructure was our No. 1 job” in Colorado, Mr. Alexander said in an interview Wednesday. Next on the priority list, he said, was to build a “big-bank infrastructure” for the acquired banks and any to come in later deals.

Now that this groundwork is laid, Zions has started hunting for deals. It has shied from some, it says, because they failed to meet certain criteria.

Zions beat out several bidders that emerged after Minnequa chairman Mahlon T. White decided to sell the family-run bank. Minnequa has $289 million of deposits and five branches, and buying it would be Zions’ entry to Pueblo, Colorado’s seventh-largest city.

And the company isn’t finished, Mr. Alexander said.

“We hope to continue to look at others in coming months,” he said, noting that Vectra’s network has gaps in areas such as Fort Collins and Loveland.

Upon the close of the Minnequa purchase, which is expected in the fourth quarter, Zions would have assets of $2.5 billion in Colorado.

Zions’ announcement came the week after its chief financial officer, Dale M. Gibbons, resigned following his arrest on charges including drug possession. Mr. Gibbons was an active and respected negotiator in most of the company’s acquisitions and was “very involved” in the Minnequa deal, Mr. Alexander said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.