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Counterfeiting arrests up 28 this year

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McLEAN, Va. (12/30/08)--As the economy sours, more consumers are trying to pass counterfeit bills, according to a Sunday USA Today article. The number of arrests for counterfeiting increased 28% this year and is the highest since 2004. Counterfeiters passed a record $64.4 million in fake bills--a 5% increase over last year. The spike in counterfeit bills is due to the struggling economy, Lt. Alfonzo Cook of the Moultrie, Ga., detective division, told USA Today. More technologically advanced printers and scanners make the bills easier to duplicate, the newspaper said. Police say counterfeiters use the fake bills for small purchases--such as $20 for gas and food. Counterfeiters also use the bills to pay for holiday gifts. The holidays are a great time to use counterfeit bills because cashiers are overwhelmed, said John Large, Secret Service special agent. For the full article, use the link.

Survey 40 of CUs cut 09 marketing budgets

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TEMPE, Ariz. (12/30/08--Forty percent of credit union marketing professionals surveyed are seeing slight decreases in their marketing budgets for 2009, according to a new study. However, 30% said their 2009 marketing budgets will increase, while another 30% indicated their budgets will stay the same, according to a panel of Credit Union Marketing University alumni. The credit unions, mostly community-charter credit unions, ranged in assets from $45 million to $800 million. Of those surveyed, 40% mentioned their marketing budgets will be over 0.20% of assets. In prior surveys, most community charter credit unions indicated budgets of at least 0.20% to 0.30% of assets. Respondents indicated their marketing focus for 2009 included:
* Growing relationships with existing members; * Using an ‘expanded field of membership’ to acquire deposits and youth accounts; * Increasing brand awareness in the community; communicating that the credit union serves everyone; * Explaining the safety of deposits and stability of the credit union; * Getting new deposits and deepening the relationship with existing members and increasing walletshare; * Opening a new office; * Continuing focus on membership, loans, core deposits and relationship; and * Growth/ member intimacy.

CUs loan helps organic grocery in credit crunch

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (12/30/08)—A Santa Cruz, Calif.-based organic grocery market got caught in the Wall Street credit crunch when its bank could no longer extend its credit line for an expansion. But Santa Cruz Community CU stepped in to help. Scott Roseman and Rex Stewart, co-owners of New Leaf Community Markets, were midway through a major expansion of their grocery business when Wall Street imploded (The Mercury News Dec. 27). Its regular lenders could not provide cash they needed to finish their new Westside store and to remodel its downtown store. However, the $72.1 million asset Santa Cruz Community CU provided the bridge loan. As a result, the grocers completed a $1 million remodeling on time and on budget, and its new store will open by March 1, ahead of a large competitor’s store. The markets generated $33 million in revenue and with the opening last June of a store in Half Moon Bay, its work force expanded to 330 from 225, with 20 more expected in the Westside store. New Leaf had two setbacks during the year. In May, Canada’s largest natural foods retailer, Planet Organic, pulled back on its offer to buy New Leaf for $9.8 million. The sale would have provided cash for the expansion. Comerica backed the market, but sales were so good, the market didn’t need to borrow for the expansion. In October, Wall Street imploded and Comerica hit a ceiling on how much it could bump up the grocery’s credit lines. Instead, the credit union provided the loan, with the help of a partial guaranty by California Coastal Rural Development Co. Frank Nuciforo, the credit union’s director of lending, told the newspaper that New Leaf was an “excellent and extremely well-managed company. Their expansion plans have been well thought out and their locations are consistently profitable.”

CU System briefs (12/29/2008)

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* BILOXI, Miss. (12/30/08)--The board of directors at Biloxi-based Keesler FCU announced a $3.5 million bonus dividend to be divided among its members at the beginning of the new year. It will be paid based on year-to-date dividends on deposits for members of record as of tomorrow. Last year, at about the same time, the board also approved a $3.5 million dividend (SunHerald.com Dec. 27) … * HUNT VALLEY, Md. (12/30/08)--Chester E. “Chet” Barton, a board member of Point Breeze CU, died Dec. 21 as a result of a massive heart attack, according to the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association. Barton served on the $650 million asset credit union’s board since 1987, and he was treasurer for 21 years. He most recently served on the Finance, Compensation and Incentive Plan committees (FOCUS Newsletter Dec. 29) … * CHESAPEAKE, Va. (12/30/08)--Simone Nolin Huerta, former manager of the Norfolk, Va., branch of Chesapeake-based IBEW Local 80 CU, died Dec. 25 at the age of 72. She served in that position for 33 years. Survivors include her husband; four children; three grandchildren; a brother and a sister (The Virginian-Pilot Dec. 28) …

CNBC.com column Expect a rush to join CUs

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NEW YORK (12/30/08)--A columnist for CNBC.com predicts that 2009 will bring a rush to join credit unions. Consumers will “flock to credit unions where they truly are more than three digits and a credit report,” according to John Ulzheimer, a contributor for CNBC’s “On the Money.” Ulzheimer listed 10 items in a recent column that the new year will bring for consumer credit. He listed credit unions as No. 2. “Little or no exposure to subprime mortgages, no shareholders to impress every three months and plenty of money to lend seems like a trifecta to me,” Ulzheimer said. “Add to that the same level of insurance for your deposits and overall better treatment of their members compared to that of the large banks and this is a slam dunk,” he added. To read the full article, use the link.

Letter Article overlooks best FI option--CUs

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VERO BEACH, Fla. (12/30/08)--The director of marketing at Indian River FCU, Vero Beach, Fla., responded to a recent newspaper article that he says overlooks consumers’ best financial institution option--credit unions. Marc Camelleri recently wrote to the Treasure Coast Palm noting that its Dec. 19 article, “Bad loans driving down banks’ ratings” overlooked Indian River FCU as an option. The credit union recently scored a “4” on a rating report from Bauer Financial, which was higher than the other Treasure Coast financial institutions mentioned in the article, Camelleri said. Indian River FCU’s nonprofit status helps members save money with low rates on loans and fewer fees. The credit union also is trustworthy, because it “exists solely to serve our members,” he added. To read the letter, use the link.

AARP names Eakes to Ten Who Inspire list

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WASHINGTON (12/30/08)--Martin Eakes, president/CEO of Self-Help CU in Durham, N.C., was recently named to AARP’s “Ten Who Inspire” list. The list includes:
* Actress Glenn Close, mental health advocate; * Alma Powell, children’s advocate; * Katherine Freund, transportation advocate; * Musician Quincy Jones, global poverty fighter; * Rose Nakamura, compassionate caregiver; * Eakes; * Actor Peter Gallagher, Alzheimer’s activist; * David E. Hayes-Bautista, Ph.D, Latino health researcher; * Richard Cohen, voice for the chronically ill; and * Susan Love, M.D., cancer crusader.
Eakes was noted for his work at Self-Help, which serves low-income individuals. AARP said the credit union has a default rate of less than 1%. “If I have a choice between making a loan to a rich person or one to a poor person, solely on grounds of credit risk, I’ll pick a poor person every time,” Eakes told AARP in its January issue. “They simply take care of their debts better.” Eakes started the credit union in 1984. Since then, it has provided more than $5 billion in loans to homeowners, non profits and small businesses. He led a fight for the state’s anti-predatory lending law in 1999 as founders for the Center for Responsible Lending, and has warned federal legislators that poor financial practices would trigger foreclosures. He is currently working to make sure the subprime meltdown doesn’t hurt those most at risk. “We’ve got proof that families of limited financial means will be incredibly great borrowers if given the chance,” Eakes told the magazine. To read the full AARP article, use the link.