California's Silicon Valley Bank has opened an office near Chicago to serve emerging technology firms in the Midwest.

The bank, with $2.6 billion of assets, plans to concentrate on high-tech and life sciences firms in eight midwestern states, including Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio. Santa Clara-based Silicon Valley specializes in lending to start-up and developing companies.

"We understand that these are very volatile companies, and we have a level of comfort with them that many banks do not," said Brent Donnell, a senior vice president in the Rosemont, Ill., office, which opened April 6.

He added that Silicon Valley Bank has been making loans to Chicago-area firms for about two years and reached the point where it could justify opening the five-banker office.

Silicon Valley, founded in 1983, has set up loan centers in most of the nation's technology hotbeds, most recently opening offices in Atlanta, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. It also operates loan offices in or near such major metropolitan markets as Washington, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Denver, and Austin, Tex.

The bank also has three full-service branches in Silicon Valley.

Joseph K. Morford, a bank analyst at BT Alex. Brown in San Francisco, said Silicon Valley Bank is able to compete for loans in out-of-state markets because of its expertise in technology.

"They are totally focused on that niche, so they really add value to the markets they're in," Mr. Morford said.

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