Sunwest Bank had some explaining to do after it pulled away from construction lending about five years ago. Glenn Gray, the president and chief executive of the $688 million-asset Sunwest, said regulators questioned why earnings looked anemic compared to other banks.

"Relative to our peer group, we didn't seem to be growing the bottom line strong enough," Gray recalled. "We said, 'You are right. We want to be around in the next few years.'"

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