TriCo Bancshares (TCBK) in Chico, Calif., wants to outperform the country's biggest banks in the rural communities it serves, and that means it has to think like a big bank.

TriCo announced plans this week to buy North Valley Bancorp (NOVB), a $907 million-asset company in Redding, Calif., for about $178 million in stock. The deal would push TriCo to about $3.5 billion in assets and give it a top-three deposit share in more than half of the 26 counties it serves, which are mainly in rural, inland California.

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