The month of April marks the celebration of Community Banking Month. I want to take this opportunity to educate our communities on what sets community banks apart:

• Local focus: Unlike larger banks that may take deposits in one state and lend in others, community banks channel their loans to the neighborhoods where their depositors live and work, which helps local businesses and communities thrive.

• Relationship banking: Community bank officers know their customers and may consider family history and discretionary spending in making loans. Megabank loan officers apply impersonal qualification criteria, such as credit scoring, without regard to individual circumstances.

• Community bankers also work hand in hand with customers to ensure they have access to the best innovations possible to meet their needs -such as the most secure, reliable and convenient payment options.

• Lending leadership to small business: According to the Federal Reserve's Small Business Credit Survey: Report on Employer Firms, community banks are the small business lender of choice.

• Timely decision-making: Community banks offer nimble decision-making on business loans because decisions are made locally. Megabanks must often convene loan-approval committees located in another state, far away from their customers.

• Community engagement and accessibility: Community bank officers are typically deeply involved in their local communities, while megabank officers are often detached from the communities where their branches are located.

As local small businesses themselves, community banks only thrive when their customers and communities flourish. They answer to their local community. Megabanks are driven by shareholder value and answer to Wall Street.

If you want to be treated as more than an account number, I encourage you to bank with a community bank, where you truly matter.

Mark Toombs