Community banks in isolated or rural areas have always been successful small-business lenders, but four Midwestern banks are showing that you don't need elbow room to make money in that niche.

The four banks are in competition-crowded suburbs of Chicago and Minneapolis, but they posted a three-year return on assets greater than 1.5% with more than 90% of their loans made to small businesses. That puts them among the best-performing small-business banks in the country, according to research by the American Banker.

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