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New CU trend Highlighting local businesses
MADISON, Wis. (9/27/12)--An increasing number of credit unions are taking part in an emerging industry trend: finding innovative ways to help highlight and assist local small businesses.

Going beyond providing member business loans (MBL), credit unions are zeroing in on the essence of boosting local businesses.   

St. Mary's CU, a $600 million asset credit union based in Marlborough, Mass., is running a We Love Local Contest that highlights a different local business each month on the credit union's Facebook page. Anyone who visits the page can enter a contest with a daily chance to win a $25 gift certificate to use at that month's highlighted business (communityadvocate.com Sept. 26).

Michigan credit unions are initiating a statewide credit union-led effort called "CU Lunch Local"--with a statewide cash mob created to show support for small businesses (Michigan Monitor Sept. 17 and Sept. 10). Similar to flash mobs, cash mobs--instead of staging some type of performance--participate by spending money at a chosen local business to support it and to encourage others to do the same, said the Michigan Credit Union League. 

Participants in CU Lunch Local will commit to buying local on Oct. 16--through something as simple as buying a cup of coffee at a neighborhood shop, to ordering lunch for a whole department at work from a deli, to purchasing furniture, the league said. Participants join the event through Facebook.

The Central Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Credit Union League began organizing cash mobs earlier this year. Each month, Central Ohio credit unions encourage their members and employees to descend upon a local business at a chosen date and time to buy products and services from that business, said the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination May 17).

The chapter held three cash mob events through August. A cash mob helped Gallo's Pit BBQ in Linworth, Ohio, increase its Aug. 16 sales by 66% over the previous Thursday (News Now Aug. 29).

Also, North Coast CU, with $164 million assets in Bellingham, Wash., and Members 1st CU, based in Redding, Calif., with $101 million in assets, are holding monthly cash mob events to benefit specific local businesses, according to their websites.  

In Totowa, N.J., more than 100 local owners of small- to- medium-size businesses attended a small business summit hosted by North Jersey FCU to network and learn about the credit union's products and services, as well as network with other businesses that attended (News Now Sept. 26).

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are urging Congress to increase credit unions' member business lending (MBL) cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25% so that more loans could be made to small businesses. CUNA and credit unions say that increasing credit unions' MBL cap would provide more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in business loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers.
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