Vista Federal Savings Bank of Reston has announced its intention to merge with Baltimore-based North Bend Savings and Loan Association. Vista Federal will be the surviving institution in the all-cash deal. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed within the next 60 days, according to Gerald Chapman, president of Vista.

The acquisition of North Bend will provide Vista with the right to set up branches in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, Chapman said.

"We believe it is particularly valuable to our D.C. area customers that Vista Federal will be able to adequately service the entire market rather than being restricted by artificial geographical barriers," Chapman said.

In an effort to sort out its business functions and to decentralize its management, ICF Inc., a Fairfax professional and technical services firm, has formed American Capital and Research Corp., a new holding company.

American Capital and Research is an employee-owned financial company that holds ICF Inc. and four other companies that have grown out of ICF's operations. James O. Edwards, former chairman of ICF, has been elected chairman and president of the holding company.

American Capital and Research's five direct subsidiaries will be based in Fairfax and the Washington area. Those subsidiaries include ICF Incorporated, Health and Sciences Research Inc., Phase Linear Systems Inc., American Venture Investments Inc., and ICF Consulting Associates Inc.

Richard G. Darman, former deputy secretary of the Treasury and managing director of Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., has been named a director of American Capital and Research.

ERC International Inc. of Fairfax said its defense group has been awarded several multimillion-dollar contracts from the Navy, totaling more than $20 million.

"The U.S. Navy is our oldest and largest customer," said Jack Aalseth, chairman of ERC. "We look forward to carrying on our relationship by continuing to provide the Navy with state-of-the-art technologies and highly qualified professional talents."

Under a $9 million contract, ERC will provide automated data processing for the Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Material Support office in Mechanicsburg.

In a five-year contract worth more than $8 million, the firm will continue to provide services to the Navy's accounting and finance center.

ERC also has been awarded a $2 million, four-year contract to perform program review, verification and validation for the General Services Administration. Under that contract, the company will work with software used in Navy aircraft simulators of A6 and F14 fighter planes.

Lastly, the firm was awarded a $2 million, three-year continuation contract to provide technical services in reliability engineering for the Tomahawk cruise missile weapon system.

The Allen Group, a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New Jersey, has acquired Stanley G. House and Associates Inc., a Bethesda marketing and public relations firm, for an undisclosed amount.

The House firm will retain its name and will become a subsidiary of The Allen Group. Sylvia Allen, president and creative director of The Allen Group, described the Allen and House philosophies as a "close to perfect match," saying that both firms share a special interest in real estate and health care marketing.

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