Donald R. Mengedoth, president of Community First Bankshares, has proved that one bank's castoffs are another bank's treasures.

The Fargo, N.D., company-which he formed 10 years ago from 21 rural branches First Bank System Inc. no longer wanted-has consistently delivered stellar financial results while pursuing an aggressive acquisition strategy.

And 1997 was no exception. Buying KeyCorp's unwanted branches in Wyoming boosted Community First's assets to $4.2 billion. And a deal for 37 Banc One branches in Colorado, Arizona, and Utah will push assets past $5 billion.

Through mid-December, Community First had notched 9% loan growth, 1.32% return on assets, and 18.35% on equity. That compares to a peer group average of 1.26% on assets and 14.31% on equity. Loan growth figures for the peer group were not available.

Mr. Mengedoth says Community First's technique is to streamline back- office processes at the banks it buys-and then leave them alone.

One banking analyst questioned whether Community First can maintain its winning streak, but Mr. Mengedoth isn't looking back. He's knocking on doors, looking for the next deal.

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