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Paper mills closures effect on CU minimal
EVERETT, Wash. (2/1/12)--Mill Town CU will survive the shutdown of the Kimberly-Clark paper mill in Everett, Wash., this spring, but it will lose a large part of its legacy. The credit union was chartered in 1939 to serve mill employees.

Fortunately, the credit union is in good shape financially and has diversified its membership. Mill workers currently make up about a fifth of the credit union's membership, the credit union's CEO, Laura Leuze, told News Now.

The state regulator told local media that Mill Town CU had a high capital ratio to protect itself against potential losses (The Daily Herald Jan. 31)

Leuze said the $44 million credit union will have to move out of its 2,400 square-foot stand-alone facility, which is located adjacent to the mill, but she's not sure exactly when. "We seem to be least of their worries right now," she said.

About 150 workers are winding down operations in the mill. At full capacity, the mill employed 800 workers. March 31 is the targeted date for the mill's closing, Leuze said.

Leuze said a lot of members are using their severance checks from Kimberly-Clark to pay off loans. "That's good," Leuze said, "It's a lot better than charging them off later. But at the same time we're trying to grow loans like any other credit union."

The credit union has worked with other mill employees on loan modifications. Of course former mill workers can longer pay via payroll deduction and must set up payment via coupon books, which requires extra paperwork.

Leuze said she worries that some members will fall behind on loans. "When someone comes in, we try to be as proactive as we can. We ask them what we can do to set up a loan payment schedule," she said.

The credit union has budgeted more for loan losses, she said.

Everett also is home to a Boeing plant, where many ex-mill workers hope to find employment, Leuze said.

Leuze said the credit union's business plan called for further growth before the plant closing was announced. "In that sense our strategy hasn't changed," Leuze said. "We knew we needed to continue to diversify our membership. We just didn't anticipate it happening in quite this way."


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