Arizona banks and credit unions generally continued to boost their balance sheets in the first quarter, according to bank rater Bauer Financial.

Meanwhile, two locally based community banks at the bottom of the Bauer ratings say they’re poised to raise new capital to comply with longstanding regulatory orders.

Statewide, 68.2 percent of Arizona banks were “recommended” by Bauer, up from 52.2 percent in first-quarter 2014, while 13.6 percent of the state’s banks were judged “troubled” or “problematic” — two stars and one star, respectively, in Bauer’s rating system — up slightly from 13 percent a year earlier.

Nationally, 80.2 percent of banks were recommended, while 4.1 percent were troubled or problematic in the first quarter, Florida-based Bauer said.

Bauer said 86.4 percent of Arizona credit unions were recommended, up from 82.2 percent in first-quarter 2014, while just 2.3 percent were rated troubled or problematic. Nationwide, 78.8 percent of credit unions were recommended, while 2.7 percent were rated troubled or problematic.

Commerce Bank of Arizona continued to carry a Bauer star rating of “zero,” as it works through a portfolio of business loans gone sour.

The community bank, which had assets of about $167 million at the end of the first quarter, is operating under a 2013 consent order with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the state Department of Financial Institutions that requires the bank to shore up its capital.

Commerce posted a first-quarter loss of $555,000, after losing more than $3 million in all of 2014. The bank’s capital ratios remained short of levels required under its agreement with the FDIC, and its nonperforming assets stayed stubbornly high at 9.4 percent.

The bank has been busy raising capital from local investors and is on track with efforts to clean up its balance sheet, said Mike Sheneman, chief financial officer of Commerce Bank of Arizona.

The bank has reached the minimum investment level on the first phase of a private stock offering and expects to finalize the initial fundraising round as soon as this week, barring unforeseen snags, Sheneman said.

Commerce expects to complete additional fundraising rounds in the next year and beyond to raise its capital ratios to required levels, he said, adding: “It’s going to take some time to get where we’re going.”

Sheneman declined to elaborate on the size of the initial funding round until it is formally filed with regulators. Bank officials previously said they planned to raise up to about $6 million.

Commerce Bank also has been shedding bad loans and working with borrowers to keep loans on track wherever possible, Sheneman said.

“We try to maximize our recovery on those, so we take the best economic route, which isn’t always the fastest,” he said. “It gives us a chance to work with some borrowers and people who are having some problems, and still act like a community bank in that regard but also make sure we are maximizing our capital recovery on those loans.”

Another local bank under orders to raise capital, Canyon Community Bank, is also expecting a major capital infusion.

Canyon Community signed a consent agreement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in mid-2013 that requires it to raise its capital ratios.

Canyon retained its one-star, or “problematic,” Bauer rating in the first quarter. The bank posted a loss of $219,000 in the first quarter after losing $1.6 million in all of 2014, but it has improved its capital reserves, and its nonperforming assets — delinquent loans and repossessed real estate — are down to 3.2 percent from more than 5 percent in first quarter 2014.

Canyon Community Bank expects to announce a significant capital boost with an investment from a local investor expected to close in the next two months, President Chuck Luhtala said.

“Once the new capital is in the bank, our balance sheet will be a source of strength for us, and we’re going to be poised to grow,” Luhtala said, adding that the quality of Canyon Community’s loan portfolio has improved markedly in the past year.

Senior reporter covering business and technology for the Arizona Daily Star/