It's not easy to survive as a single-branch community bank anymore.

That's the view of John Essen, president of Community Savings Bank in Bethel, Ohio, which agreed this week to merge with Home Building and Loan Co., a savings and loan in Greenfield, Ohio.

"To be honest with you, in today's world it is challenging for a single location community bank to keep up with increasing regulations" Essen says.

The merger combines small-town institutions. Community Savings Bank was established in 1889 as Bethel Building and Loan Co. Home Building and Loan started operating in 1886.

Community Saving has expanded its product offerings in recent years, Essen says, adding checking, wealth management services and, in recent months, mobile banking. "We're to the point where we need to expand our market outside of Bethel," he says.

The merger will provide the $42 million-asset Community Savings with a second branch and a stronger foothold in southern Ohio. The $38 million-asset Home Building will be rebranded as Community Savings following the merger.

"Partnering with Community Savings Bank will allow The Home Building and Loan Company to expand products and service to our customers without compromising the level of personal attention they have come to expect," said Home Building president James Wilson in a press release. He could not be reached for comment because the bank is closed all day on Wednesdays.

Wilson will join Community Savings' senior management after the deal is completed, and two Home Building directors will join the board. The merger is expected to close in the second half of this year.

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