A Chicago-area start-up bank whose organizers include former Chicago Bear Walter J. Payton hopes to kick off early in 1995.

First Northwest Bank, Arlington Heights, Ill., should have scored all of the necessary $6 million to $6.5 million in capital by next week, said John S. Corneliuson, who will be president.

Subsequently, the northwest suburban bank should be able to open by Feb. 15, or March 1 at the latest, he said.

Mr. Payton, 40, who got involved through one of the initial organizers, previously lived in Arlington Heights and boasts membership in the town's own Hall of Fame in addition to the better-known National Football Hall of Fame. He now lives in a nearby suburb.

Involved with various other businesses including restaurants, nightclubs, and construction equipment sales and rental, Mr. Payton has said he also wants to play an active role in the bank. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Payton is the National Football League's all-time leading rusher and was the National Football Conference leading gainer on the ground from 1976 to 1980. He retired in 1987.

Having a celebrity organizer probably hasn't affected stock sales, but "on a marketing standpoint, it could be an outstanding advantage," said Richard A. Soukup, a bank consultant at Grant Thornton in Chicago, who called Mr. Payton "a unique offbalance-sheet asset" for the bank.

The former running back will help set First Northwest apart from about 22 other financial institutions in its market area. Another proposed new bank, Northwest Community Bank, is being formed in a different part of town.

But because Arlington Heights and surrounding suburbs had lost all their independent banks, there's plenty of room for the de novos, said Mr. Soukup, who is familiar with most of the Chicago area's start-up bank groups.

"The market that they're going in is an excellent marketplace in need of community bank representation," he said.

First Northwest, which applied for an Illinois state charter last April, will target consumer and small businesses customers with less than $10 million of sales. "We can't do battle with the major banks," said Mr. Corneliuson, a 35-year bank veteran who previously was president of Morton Grove Bank and Affiliated Bank/Morton Grove. He was laid off after Comerica acquired his bank.

Thus, First Northwest will stress service to customers. "We will call them by name, not by number," he said.

The stock offering, which began in September at $10 a share with a minimum purchase of 500 shares, took slightly longer than anticipated, Mr. Corneliuson said. "Commitments and money in hand are two different things," he said.

In addition to Mr. Corneliuson and Mr. Payton, organizers include longtime Arlington Heights businessmen Michael L. Silverman and Jack B. Whisler, who initially proposed the start-up and have served on boards of other community banks. The fifth organizer is James F. Sheerin, a hotel and entertainment entrepreneur who has worked with Mr. Payton on other projects.

The bank's building should be renovated by June. Until then it will operate from temporary quarters. It also will hire five more employees in addition to Mr. Corneliuson and cashier Dennis J. Kalka, Mr. Corneliuson said.

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