Fitch Investors Service said Friday it has hired two executives to staff the rating agency's previously announced new offices in Dallas and Chicago.

Jim Forte, currently the finance director for Plano, Tex., will become Fitch's regional manager in Dallas.

Michael D. Belsky, who joins Fitch from Mesirow Financial Inc., a Chicago-based underwriter, will head the Chicago office.

Forte began his career in Plano city government 16 years ago as capital projects coordinator, and later became the city's first budget director.

Belsky was a manager of Mesirow's public finance operations, and previously served as an assistant to the Illinois attorney general and in the public finance department of Northern Trust Co.

Both Forte and Belsky will report to Richard S. Wilson, executive managing director of business development at Fitch.

Fitch announced in April that it planned to set up one-person offices in California, Illinois, Texas, and the Southeast. The strategy is aimed at building relationships with the regions' major institutional investors, bankers, and other market players, especially in public finance.

The new offices are the first regional branches for New York-based Fitch since the company was recapitalized in 1989, according to a press release from the rating agency.

Fitch said the Chicago office will open on July 12 and the Dallas office around Labor Day.

Moody's Investors Service opened an office in Dallas in May to help oversee the rating agency's Southwest region, which embraces Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

Standard & Poor's briefly operated an office in Houston during the early 1970s, but currently has no Texas office.

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