FirstMerit Corp.’s earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011 and full year rose 12.9 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively.


On Tuesday, the Akron bank reported fourth-quarter income of $30.5 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with $27 million, or 25 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.


For the full year, the bank reported net income of $119.6 million, or $1.10 per share, compared with $102.9 million, or $1.02 per share, a year ago.


“2011 was a solid year despite a challenging environment,” Paul G. Greig, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said during a conference call with analysts. “We grew organically and invested back in the organization for future profitability.”


The bank said it was its 51st consecutive quarter of profitability.


Average commercial loans were up $173.4 million, or 3.6 percent, from the previous quarter and $603.8 million, or 13.6, percent from the same period a year ago.


Average core deposits grew by $226.1 million, or 2.4 percent, from the previous quarter and $1.2 billion, or 14.2 percent, compared with the same period a year ago.


Greig said the fourth quarter finished the first full year of operations including all FirstMerit operations located in Chicago.


In 2009, the bank began a growth plan west of Ohio and Pennsylvania and focused in Chicago by acquiring 24 branches there from St. Louis-based FirstBank for about $42 million.


In February and May of 2010, the bank won two bids on banks seized by regulators with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., taking over four Chicago-area branches of George Washington Savings Bank and 26 branches with the Midwest Bank and Trust Co. in the Chicago area.


“We are pleased with the great strides we made in 2011 expanding our customer base in Chicago,” said Greig, a Chicago native.


Greig said most of the new business in commercial loans “came from taking market share and given the disruption in that market, we expect to continue taking more market share in 2012.


“We are extremely excited about Chicago’s long-term growth prospects,” he said.


The bank employs 3,018 employees at 206 branches — 46 in Chicago and 160 in Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Shares rose 13 cents in Tuesday trading to close at $15.96.


Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.