The chatter about community banking these days is that it is an industry in peril. Hamstrung by problem loans and scant access to capital markets, countless community banks that once had growth ambitions are shrinking their balance sheets in order to preserve capital.

While it's true that some small banks struggle to remain solvent, others are thriving, like First Virginia Community Bank. The $275 million bank in McLean, Va., earned a record $2 million last year and grew its loan portfolio by nearly 30% in a weak loan demand environment. Founder and CEO David Pijor says much of the growth has come at the expense of larger rivals that have become increasingly inflexible.

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