Florida presence during the next eight months by building five branches in a fast-growing county south of Tampa.

The branches to be built in Manatee County by June 2000 would give the $8.5 billion-asset bank a total of 13 Florida locations. Provident has eight branches in nearby Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.

"A couple of our Sarasota offices are very close to Manatee, and that's helped us build business relationships with people in the area," said Stephen E. Kunk, president and chief executive officer of Provident Bank of Florida. "But we were just scratching the surface in terms of what we believe we can do by putting brick-and-mortar in the county."

Provident has about $414 million of assets in Florida, and one of the company's top priorities is to expand on that. The bank has added two branches in Sarasota during the past year.

Provident entered Florida in 1997 by acquiring South Hillsborough Community Bank of Apollo Beach and Enterprise National Bank of Sarasota. Its branches operate under the name Provident Bank of Florida. -- Craig Woker

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