Pittsburgh-based PNC Capital Markets Inc. has opened a new public finance office in Cincinnati as part of the firm’s strategic expansion.

The move comes a few months after PNC opened a new public finance office in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Cincinnati office is part of PNC’s overall expansion plan. It comes more than a year after PNC acquired Cleveland-based National City Corp.

Now with a total of 40 muni finance professionals, PNC is currently interviewing public finance bankers to staff new offices in Chicago and Florida, said Thomas Henson, head of public finance capital markets.

Director Christy McMurry will staff the Cincinnati office. McMurry joined PNC after spending five years at Ohio-based Fifth Third Securities, where she specialized in water, sewer, and capital projects for local government issuers.

Before that she worked at Seasongood & Mayer LLC, which was acquired by RBC Capital Markets in 2007.

McMurry will focus on working with local governments in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky.

PNC now operates offices in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, staffed with a total of 13 public finance bankers and staff, Henson said.

The firm plans to hire another banker for the Columbus office specializing in local government and education.

“With Columbus and Cleveland, the Cincinnati office rounds out the three major market areas,” Henson said.

Despite a relatively weak economy that still plagues much of Ohio, the public finance market remains busy, he said.

“It’s still very strong in southern Ohio,” Henson said. “If you look at the Ohio market as a whole, school districts and local governments make up 30% to 40% of the market.”

The new office fits in with PNC’s strategy to have people in place in the markets where it wants to boost its local government and school district business, he added.

“If you want to be in that market you have to have boots on the ground that you want to cover. With health care and higher education, you can still be very responsive by bringing people from other offices,” Henson said. “With local government it makes more sense to have people on the ground.”

PNC doubled the size of its public finance team between 2003 and 2007 and says it has continued to grow its operations in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

PNC Capital Markets ranked 22d among senior managers nationally in 2009, working on a total of $2.35 billion in deals, according to Thomson Reuters. It ranked 14th nationally in 2008 with a total volume of $4.04 ­billion.

In the Midwest, the firm ranked 28th among senior managers in 2009, with a total volume of $566 million. It ranked 17th in 2008, working on a total of $911.5 million.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is the fifth-largest commercial bank by deposits.

It announced earnings Thursday that showed its first-quarter profit fell by nearly 28% as it paid back a $7.6 billion federal bailout loan.

The bank used the loan to acquire National City. Excluding the payback, PNC’s quarterly profits exceeded analyst expectations and shares were up in trading Friday.

The bank does not break out public finance capital markets earnings.

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