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Bank mantra: Go East!

United Bankshares Inc.'s announcement that it will purchase Virginia Commerce Bancorp follows a success trail for West Virginia banking companies.

The trail was first blazed and proven by One Valley Bancorp.

One Valley succeeded in the 1990s by purchasing several Virginia banks. In 2000 One Valley was West Virginia's biggest bank. But the company couldn't sustain investor's hopes for ever-bigger returns, so the company's management engineered a profitable sale to BB&T Corp.

United has eyed the lucrative, nearly recession-proof Washington, D.C., metropolitan market for more than a decade. The company has picked up assets in Virginia whenever it has found a match that makes sense.

United's earlier deals in the Virginia/Washington, D.C. area include Bank First of McLean, Va., 1998; First Commercial Bank of Arlington, Va., 1995; First Patriot Bankshares of Vienna, Va., and George Mason Bankshares of Fairfax, Va., 1997; Century Bancshares of Washington, D.C., 2001; Sequoia Bancshares of Bethesda, Md., 2003; and Premier Community Bankshares of Winchester, Va., 2007.

The successful forays into Virginia by One Valley and United have not been lost on City Holding Co., the corporate parent of City National Bank.

City acquired Virginia Savings Bancorp last year and completed the acquisition of Community Financial Corp. earlier this month. City now has 15 branch offices in the Old Dominion.

In City's earnings press release issued earlier this week, Charles "Skip" Hageboeck, City's chief executive officer, said, "We look forward to continuing the development of our presence in Virginia."

It was Horace Greely, the newspaper editor, politician and reformer, who famously advised in an 1865 editorial, "Go West, young man, go West . . ."

For successful West Virginia banks, the mantra seems to be, "Go East!"

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The opening of bids for renovation of the old Medical Examiner's Building next to the West Virginia State Police headquarters in South Charleston has been moved back again. The new date is Feb. 5.

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Cheap, abundant natural gas isn't hurting just the coal industry.

Natural gas is so cheap that some natural-gas-fired power plants are less expensive to operate than nuclear units, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Some companies with nuclear power plants are considering closing them, the Journal said.

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Residents of the Kanawha Valley may be living in a golden era when it comes to eating out.

The food at Paterno's at the Park, in the space formerly occupied by the Power Alley Grill, and Mi Cocina de Amor ("My Kitchen of Love") at 711 Bigley Ave., is not to be missed.


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