As would-be buyers sift through targets in Pennsylvania and New York, banks in some sleepier parts of those states have a new cachet.

Rural regions, mostly to the west, could benefit from a surge in economic development over the next 20 years, thanks to the Marcellus Shale, which experts consider one of the world's biggest natural gas fields. Though it's the big banks that are working with energy companies, smaller institutions still expect huge opportunities, some risks aside, to serve ancillary businesses and consumers.

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