NEW YORK: Independent North Carolina-based PR firm French West Vaughan announced on Wednesday that it is merging its New York office with the JB Cumberland Group and forming a new agency in the city called FWV Cumberland.FWV president and CEO Rick French said that his firm opened its Manhattan office in January with the intention of merging soon after. The expansion out of the Southeast was an effort to extend the firm's brand and accommodate existing accounts in the New York area. French said that after reviewing possible partners, he picked JB Cumberland because of its work ethic and complementary client list. "I liked [founder] Joanna [Cumberland]'s background," he said. "She's worked to grow her business." The new firm will open October 1 with ten employees and annual billings of around $1 million. French expects both figures to grow quickly, driven largely by an overflow of business from FWV's Raleigh office. He sees a need for firms like his in New York. "There's not a lot to fill that midsize niche," French said.