Alexander Rorke has joined Louisville-based Hilliard Lyons as senior vice president and director of public finance.

Rorke, who has worked at Merrill Lynch, Salomon Brothers, Dean Witter, and UBS (formerly PaineWebber), held a similar position at Loop Capital Markets from 2009 to 2011.

According to Rorke, the opportunities for growth within Hilliard Lyons’ footprint are “very compelling.” That footprint includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee as well as the firm’s home state of Kentucky.

In an interview with On Wall Street, Rorke pointed to the mid-market as a possible source of those opportunities. “With the consolidation of public finance departments at the major brokerage firms, that area may be somewhat overlooked,” he says. Rorke defined the mid-market as offerings up to around $100 million, with most of the deals in the $20 million-$80 million range.

Rorke is by no means limiting Hilliard to mid-sized projects. His track record includes management roles in large, complex financings such as the offering that took the Chicago Skyway out of default and a $10 billion Illinois pension bond transaction. Speaking with On Wall Street, he pointed to the recent agreement between the governors of Kentucky and Indiana to build two bridges across the Ohio River at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion as an example of a larger project he hopes Hilliard will help to finance.

Looking at the overall muni market, Rorke reports that retail investors are returning to munis and muni funds after a period of skepticism about state and local finances. Issuers are coming to the market, especially for needed infrastructure projects. “At the end of 2010,” he says, “there was a surge of issuance as the Build America Bonds program was expiring. As a result, 2011 was a down year, but we’ve already seen a large increase in issuance so far in 2012.”

Refunding is the driving force behind higher muni issuance, Rorke contends. Issuers are borrowing at today’s low rates and using the proceeds to either retire or pay the debt service on older, higher-yield debt. Since Rorke joined Hilliard this year, the firm has done a refunding issue for the Hopkins County (Kentucky) school district. “We will be doing an $18 million refunding for the University of Louisville,” he tells On Wall Street. The anticipated savings for the university is similar to the 7.31% present value savings that was achieved for Hopkins County.

At Hilliard, Rorke will report to COO Jim Rogers. “We’ve had a relationship over the last 15 years,” said Rogers, “and Alex knows our capabilities well. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he will do.”

Donald Jay Korn writes for On Wall Street.