A central Kansas community bank is heading west in search of profits.

Hutchinson-based Central Bank and Trust Co. has chartered a bank in Mesquite, Nev., a retirement and vacation community about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Chief executive Earl D. McVicker said the $112 million-asset institution is looking to diversify the geographic mix of its assets and tap into what is expected to be a hot market.

"We feel there's probably more growth opportunity out there than in central Kansas," Mr. McVicker said.

Other bankers apparently agree. Seven new banks have been chartered in Nevada since the beginning of 1995, and others are in the pipeline, according to the Financial Institutions Division of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.

Mr. McVicker said he decided to go outside Kansas after years of schmoozing with peers from other states, and learning about banking conditions in other parts of the country. For the past year, the bank has looked for markets to enter in Sun Belt states, including Texas and Arizona.

Central Bank chose Nevada partly because of the low-tax environment, Mr. McVicker said.

"We were just looking for what was the best investment," Mr. McVicker said. "Nevada has a lot of growth potential."

Rather than seek an existing franchise, the Kansas company chartered Mesquite State Bank under Nevada law because the cost of buying a bank or branch in the state would have been too steep, Mr. McVicker said. Mesquite State Bank was capitalized with only $3 million, he added.

Mr. McVicker said he isn't intimidated by doing business in a market different from his midwestern base. He noted that the directors and employees of Mesquite State Bank are locals.

"Nevada is different, but what we'll be doing is not significantly different from what we do out here," he said. "We're still going to be making small-business loans."

Central Bank is not ignoring its home market; next year it plans to open a branch in Wichita. But it is still trolling for new markets outside Kansas. "If we find another opportunity we will certainly pursue it," Mr. McVicker said.

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