A Wilmington, Del., investor group said it is working to form a minority-controlled savings and loan association.

John E. Barnes, president of Heritage Capital Investment Corp., said Heritage is in the process of applying to the Office of Thrift Supervision.

"We feel there is an underserved market of people here within the city, and and most of those people are low- and moderate-income individuals," Mr. Barnes said. "We feel there is a niche."

Summertime Startup

Mr. Barnes, a fund-raising consultant for small businesses and a former executive with Newark, Del.-based MBNA Corp., said the thrift could be up and running this summer. That's when the Resolution Trust Corp. is expected to put up for bid branches that were operated by the failed Second National Federal Savings Bank, Salisbury, Md., according to an agency spokeswoman. The spokeswoman said there are three branches in Wilmington that are in minority areas.

Heritage, which was formed in March to start a thrift, is trying to raise $5 million. More than $2 million is expected to come from the RTC's capital assistance program, which in theory helps minority applicants obtain failed thrift properties.

The directors are also seeking $2 million from large institutions. Heritage officials have met with more than a dozen big banks and credit card firms including Citicorp, Advanta Corp., American Express Co. and First Chicago Corp.

So Far, So Good

"No one has yet said no," Mr. Barnes said. "They are still studying the whole process."

Mr. Barnes said the thrift will initially focus on making consumer loans and later on mortgages. He said Wilmington's population is more than 60% minority.

Heritage is also looking for someone to run the thrift. Three of the organizers have banking experience, but the group has yet to find a president.

"We are looking for a graybeard - a tenured individual who is willing to commit some time as a mentor," Mr. Barnes said.

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