RIVERSIDE, Calif. (10/30/09)--Altura CU, located in the Inland Empire, Calif., an area hit hard by the economy, reported Thursday a significant improvement in its bottom line results for third quarter 2009, compared with the third quarter of 2008. Altura's assets total $889.7 million and it has $1.8 million in net income, a substantial increase, the credit union said. While still reporting a loss from operations through the first nine months of the year, the third-quarter results suggest economic conditions in the region are beginning to show improvement, said Altura CEO/President Mark Hawkins. "While we remain in a very tough environment, we are pleased with our third quarter results and believe we are positioned for success in the coming year," Hawkins said. The credit union raised its capital ratio from 7%--considered "well capitalized" by regulators--to 7.42%. "The key to protecting our capital is preserving the safety and soundness of our real estate portfolio. We have been enduring the worst loan losses in our history; a national phenomenon that has been particularly bad in the Inland Empire where our unemployment rate (14.5%) is far higher than the national average," Hawkins said. However, the credit union took steps to help members through the troubled times, with "an aggressive program of loan modifications and debt workouts for our members to help them stay in their homes. We have extended the hours of our loan servicing staff, and we're working closely with members to help them understand their options." The result, he said, shows in the third quarter performance results and the increase in the capital ratio. Altura also reported a 12.2% growth in total member share/deposits in the past 12 months, and it reduced its operating expenses for third quarter by 8.1% from third quarter 2008. Hawkins is cautiously optimistic about fourth quarter. "Although I believe the Inland Empire isn't out of the woods yet, I think better times are coming." He noted that the credit union's focus on the needs of its members through the "economic cataclysm" has helped protect Altura.