Indiana's Star Financial Group, on a quest to double its assets to more than $2 billion in five years, is moving its headquarters to downtown Fort Wayne from a small town nearby.

The $1.1 billion-asset parent of Star Financial Bank has also bought a 48,000-square-foot operations center outside Fort Wayne's central business district.

The company says it expects to have 200 employees at the operations center and headquarters within a year. It now employs 165 at its head offices in Marion, Ind., which is about 50 miles south of Fort Wayne, Indiana's second-largest city. Those employees have been offered transfers.

"Fort Wayne is a vital and growing market," said James C. Marcuccilli, the bank's president and chief executive officer.

Star aims to increase its market share in Fort Wayne and surrounding Allen County fivefold, to 10%, over the next five years.

Three banks now control almost 80% of the Fort Wayne market: Cleveland-based National City Corp., Chicago-based Bank One Corp., and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co.

Though these large out-of-state banks could pose significant competition, Star says it can carve a niche as a full-service hometown bank. "We are a community bank," said Sherri Miller, Star's regional president. "Our roots are in Indiana, and we are dedicated to becoming very involved in the cities and towns in which we serve."

The 38-branch bank wants to accomplish its planned growth without acquisitions. Star, which would have four Fort Wayne branches after the move, already expects to open two more in the city next year.

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