Pennsylvania's Progress Financial Corp. is forming a venture fund to finance start-up companies.

NewMarket Ventures plans to focus on fast-growing small businesses in the Middle Atlantic states that need money for expansion. Progress, based in Blue Bell, will be a general partner in the fund.

Progress officials say NewMarket will fill a funding void.

"The climate of entrepreneurship in this region is changing very much for the positive," said W. Kirk Wycoff, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Progress.

Mr. Wycoff said the fund intends to raise about $35 million in private placements. NewMarket will be managed by Progress Capital Management Inc., an affiliate of the holding company.

Progress is a $640 million-asset unitary thrift holding company, the parent of Progress Bank. It has other subsidiaries involved in equipment leasing, estate planning, and developing assisted-living communities.

The company has some experience in developing companies. Progress Capital also manages the $10 million Ben Franklin/Progress Capital Fund. Start-up companies make up about 8% of Progress Bank's loan portfolio.

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