Facing only moderate loan and deposit growth in their home markets, midwestern banks continue to look to Florida for new business.

Two Ohio companies-Provident Bancorp. of Cincinnati and Huntington Bancshares of Columbus-last week announced acquisitions deals in the Sunshine State. Both deals are expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Provident said it would buy $163 million-asset Florida Gulfcoast Bancorp., parent of Enterprise National Bank of Sarasota, for $34.9 million in stock. That price represents 2.6 times book value.

The deal would complement Provident's first Florida acquisition, completed in February, of $40 million-asset South Hillsborough Community Bank in Apollo Beach.

Huntington said it would buy closely held Bank of Winter Park, based in an Orlando suburb, for an undisclosed amount of stock. Analysts estimated that Huntington would pay between $12 million and $16 million for the $90 million-asset bank.

Bank of Winter Park has four offices and earned $198,000 in the first quarter. The fill-in acquisition would add to Huntington's $1.8 billion of Florida assets.

Some Midwest banks have found there's more to Florida than following their snowbird customers and selling trust and investment products.

The $6.8 billion-asset Provident views Florida as a source of deposits to fund loan growth across its four banking states and in its national consumer finance business. Enterprise National is primarily a commercial bank, and Provident officials said the management, led by chief executive officer Stephen E. Kunk, would remain. That management would "help lead us in our Florida expansion strategy," said Allen L. Davis, Provident's president and CEO.

Huntington, with $21.6 billion of assets, would add to its seven Orlando-area offices and 43 statewide with the acquisition of Bank of Winter Park. Huntington, which operates in six states, also recently announced it was buying $3.6 billion-asset First Michigan Bank Corp., Holland.

Huntington's chairman, Frank Wobst, described its approach to Florida as a "niche strategy in select markets." Huntington is focused on central Florida and its west coast.

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