Lawrence Federal to merge with Oak Hill Banks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

Oak Hill Financial executives said Oak Hill Bank has long had a customer base in the Ironton area, but not a facility to service those customers.

That will soon change.

Executives with Lawrence Financial Holdings, Inc., and

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the Jackson-based Oak Hill Financial, Inc.,

have signed an agreement to merge Lawrence Financial with and into Oak Hill. The official announcement was made at Lawrence Federal Savings Bank offices Wednesday afternoon.

The merger, pending approval of Lawrence Federal stockholders and various regulatory agencies, should be completed by the end of March 2005.

"We've done business is Lawrence County for some time, we've been looking at this market 10 or 15 years, trying to find the right fit. We looked at starting a branch here. We fit well with Lawrence Federal's mode of operations. The synergy is close," Gene Coffman, president and chief executive officer of Oak Hill Financial, Inc., said.

That sentiment was seconded by Lawrence Financial President and Chief Executive Jack Blair. "We're very pleased to have this association with a larger community bank. They have a mind set much like our own, trying to make a niche in customer service. I think the bank will continue to grow and prosper."

Lawrence Federal has 52 employees in Lawrence County. Coffman said Oak Hill will try to keep "everyone we can. We're (Oak Hill officials) meeting with employees this afternoon. We're going to be up front and honest with everyone. Our biggest concern is the people issue."

Lawrence Federal executives met with employees

Tuesday evening and officially informed them of the merger.

Lawrence Federal has its main office in Ironton and branches in South Point, Chesapeake, Proctorville and Wheelersburg, in Scioto County. Oak Hill Bank has branches in Proctorville and Wheelersburg. In the merger, the Oak Hill branch in Proctorville will be kept open and the Lawrence Federal branch there will be closed.

Coffman said Oak Hill had recently remodeled its office in Proctorville and it is better suited to handle increased customer flow. Meanwhile, the Lawrence Federal branch in Wheelersburg will remain open and the Oak Hill branch there will be closed. Coffman said Oak Hill executives had been discussing relocating the branch in Wheelersburg or building a new facility. The merger will eliminate the need for that.

The most obvious benefit to customers is the merged bank's ability to provide more and larger retail loans than what Lawrence Federal was able to offer on its own, Oak Hill Financial Chairman Jack Kidd said.

"Because of our increased size we will be able to provide enhanced products and services over what a small bank is able to do. In terms of lending we offer a complete array retail products, more sophisticated products. And we can offer the convenience of more branches." Kidd also said it is hoped that another of the long-term benefits is increased employment.

At the end of June, Oak Hill Financial had total assets of $980.8 million and stockholders equity of $81.2 million. At the same time, Lawrence Federal had total assets of $125 million and stockholders equity of $13.7 million.

Oak Hill Financial operates 29 full service banks and four lending offices in a 15-county area extending from Cincinnati eastward and Columbus southward. That entity completed a merger with Ripley National Bank of Ripley last week.