It wasn't long ago that banks in slow-growth states such as Pennsylvania and New York were seen as laggards because they couldn't keep pace with their counterparts in go-go markets like Florida, Arizona and Nevada. But the real estate collapse has left many banks in those once-thriving markets severely hobbled, and now banks in areas that never quite boomed, and, therefore, never went bust, are emerging as the industry's stars.

Of the top 200 community banks at Dec. 31, 24 were in Pennsylvania, according to an analysis of data compiled for U.S. Banker by SNL Financial LC, up from eight a year earlier. Only California, has as many as 20 banks and thrifts ranked among the top 200 - and most are in Northern California, far removed from the battered Inland Empire region. Other states well represented in this year's top 200 are Virginia and New York, with 13; and West Virginia and Illinois, with eight each.

Still, as the data show, even the healthiest community banks are weakening. Only three of the top 10 banks reported that their return on equity had increased between Dec. 31, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2008. And if there's one thing banks have learned from the financial crisis, it's that their fortunes can turn in a hurry. Five banks ranked in the top 65 a year ago, including No. 2 Silver State Bank, have since failed.

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