The U.S. Midwest has gone from being the "rust belt" to the "recovery belt," Huntington Bancshares CEO Stephen Steinour told CNBC Friday.
"It's a good time to be a regional bank," said the head of the Ohio-based bank holding company . Commercial loan growth at the bank has grown by double digits for 10 straight quarters because of the torrid pace of manufacturing in the region for export, Steinour said, even to areas of the world where the economy is slowing, such as Europe and China.
"There is a history of European export, but it's also global now" thanks to the region's shipping lanes on the Great Lakes, as well as growing intermodal traffic, he said. Steinour also sees a boom coming from energy, thanks to the Midwest's "enormous reserves that have yet to be brought into production."
While other banks have been cutting, Huntington has been investing "in a contrarian manner" and was the second-largest bank in terms of branch openings last year. "We may be the largest this year," he said. Steinour thinks the company's shares can grow to more than $10 a share and the bank recently announced a share buyback plan.
As for Bank of America's pilot program to allow some mortgage customers facing foreclosure a chance to stay in their homes as renters, Steinour said it's "great to see Bank of America do what the regionals have been doing all along."