I am working on a story this week on the state of banking in Western North Carolina. In recent years, the large local banks have been consolidated, merged with larger existing entities or shut down during or after the last recession. The last major local bank is HomeTrust, which operates throughout our region. It is left after longtime entity Asheville Savings Bank was acquired by First Bank. First Bank also acquired the assets of Bank of Asheville, a casualty of the Great Recession. I am curious to know why such consolidation has happened within this industry, what its impact could be in Asheville and our surrounding region and what challenges exist in the modern climate for local banks. What are the benefits and what are the drawbacks of running a local bank unaffiliated with a larger entity? How are consumers impacted by these changes? Any insight related to this topic could be a huge help to me.