Though it is still digesting three acquisitions in Texas, Comerica Inc. has launched a widespread advertising campaign in the Lone Star State promoting itself as an up-and-coming business bank.

The Detroit-based company, which has $26.3 billion of assets, is using print, radio, and billboard advertising to boast of its new branches in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. In the sports-obsessed Dallas-Fort Worth market, a highly visible campaign promotes Comerica as the area's "newest expansion team."

In Dallas, in particular, the bank is hoping to attract middlemarket customers. "Our vision is to be the business bank of choice here," said Charles L. Gummer, president of Comerica Bank Texas. "We look to be the entrepreneurial bank, the one that takes a consulting approach with our customers."

Comerica has been on an acquisition binge in Texas, nearly doubling its branch network and more than doubling its assets to $3 billion in the 18 months. It now has 51 branches statewide, including 39 in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The bank plans to close four overlapping Dallas branches later this summer.

Comerica recently consolidated its biggest acquisition - the $800 million Hibernia National Bank of Texas - and is now absorbing Sugar Creek National Bank in Sugar Land and Northpark National Bank in Dallas. Both are single-office banks.

Comerica ranked ninth in terms of Texas market share one year ago, with 2.57% of statewide deposits, according to Ferguson & Co. More recent estimates are not available.

The bank's "limited budget" marketing campaign, which began June 20, is aimed primarily at building name recognition among small businesses.

Comerica also is developing a farther-reaching corporate identity campaign, she said, but "the point of the campaign now is to say that Comerica has really expanded."

Comerica is carving different marketing strategies for different states. In Michigan and Illinois, it sells itself as a full-service bank serving retail, business, and corporate customers. Private banking and personal trust services are the focuses in Florida, while Comerica California tilts toward corporate lending.

But business is the calling card in Texas.

Mr. Gummer said the bank will soon launch a direct-mail campaign and a personal-call blitz to owner-managed companies with annual revenues of up to $100 million. The company Comerica has identified "several thousand" middle-market companies, he says.

Comerica thinks it can compete in the Southwest against smaller community banks as well as with such giants as Texas Commerce Bancshares, the Chemical Banking Corp. subsidiary that is Texas' top corporate lender.

"We don't see any banks that are focused on owner-managed businesses as we are," Mr. Gummer said.

Business lending is potentially more lucrative than consumer or corporate banking, but it is also riskier. Owner-managed businesses are likelier to fail than mature corporations. But Mr. Gummer says chargeoffs for business loans have been minimal since Comerica entered the Texas market in 1988.

"Owner-managed businesses are better run today then they have ever been," he said. "We thought they were good four or five years ago, and we still think they are today."

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