BankAmerica Corp. is about to declare war in Ohio.
During the next two weeks, the San Francisco giant plans to deploy about 50 of its Chicago-based bankers to call on more than 600 middle-market companies - those that generate between $50 million and $250 million in sales annually.
"We will be blitzing Ohio in the first two weeks of November," said Jennifer Bally, spokeswoman for BankAmerica's Midwest division.
But area bankers said they've seen it all before.
The major players in the Ohio market - National City Corp., KeyCorp, Banc One Corp., Fifth Third Bancorp, and FirstMerit Corp. - said they aren't readying their troops for counterattack.
"We're here 365 days a year, so we're not overly concerned with someone coming in for a few days," said Dan Schingler, spokesman for Cleveland- based National City Corp., which has $50 billion in assets.
Officials from other banks in the state said proximity and length of time in a market are the keys to success in middle-market lending - advantages BankAmerica doesn't have.
BankAmerica, with $243 billion in assets, entered Ohio two years ago when it acquired Continental Bank Corp. of Chicago.
BankAmerica's push in Ohio is part of an eight-state corporate banking initiative that began in early 1995. It has launched similar attacks in Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, and Minnesota.
Figures from these forays were not available. BankAmerica officials have said these efforts were designed to begin relationships that would later translate into new customers.
The bank's middle-market loan portfolio in the Midwest is $3 billion, up 20% from a year ago, Ms. Bally said.
But some analysts were skeptical.
"I would not expect Bank of America to be that successful in Ohio," said Fred Cummings, an analyst at McDonald & Company Securities Inc. in Cleveland. "It will be a very difficult task for them to try to move market share."
An official of FirstMerit Corp. of Akron, a $5.6 billion-asset company, said BankAmerica probably will go after the higher end of the middle market, which does not represent a majority of FirstMerit's customers.
"We don't view them as a threat because most people want a local banking relationship," said Brad L. Tolstedt, executive vice president at FirstMerit's Cleveland subsidiary. "There's not a lot that they bring to the table that's not already available locally."
As of 1995, National City had the largest share of deposits in Ohio, with 11.35%, followed by Banc One (10.99%), KeyCorp (9.90%), Fifth Third (8.56%), and Huntington Bancshares (5.38%), according to SNL Securities of Charlottesville, Va.
BankAmerica does not have a retail operation in the state.
Mr. Shingler said National City has slightly less than 30% of the middle-market business in the state. Nat City acts as the lead bank for about half of that business, he said.
National City has no special plans to respond to BankAmerica's initiative, he added.
BankAmerica said the campaign will be multifaceted. In addition to a flood of ads, BankAmerica will hold events in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, featuring speeches by sports celebrities such as Mike Hargrove, manager of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, and Archie Griffin, two-time Heisman Trophy winner of Ohio State University.