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!"