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Ohio payday loan sent to governor

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (5/23/08)--Ohio's payday loan reform bill is on its way to Gov. Ted Strickland for signature, which is expected next week. Members of the state House of Representatives voted 70-24 Tuesday to approve Senate changes in the bill ( May 20). The bill caps interest rates on short-term loans at 28% and limits borrowers to four such loans a year. Credit unions in the state have received positive attention as alternatives for payday loans (News Now May 20). Payday lenders opposed to the bill said they would have to leave the state.

N. Carolina bill earmarks fin ed funds for three CUs

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RALEIGH, N.C. (5/23/08)--A bill that would appropriate financial literacy funds through three North Carolina credit unions has been introduced in the state legislature. Senate Bill 1728 would appropriate $2.5 million for the 2008-2009 school year to the North Carolina Minority Support Center Inc., to expand economic development lending and financial literacy. The funds would award economic development loan funds to $20 million asset Generations Community CU, Durham; to the $8.6 million asset Greater Kinston CU, Kinston; and the $27.4 million asset First Legacy Community FCU, Charlotte.

Governors ID-theft-bill release quotes NYCUF

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ALBANY, N.Y. (5/23/08)--New York Gov. David A. Paterson's press release Wednesday introducing legislation to strengthen the state's identity theft laws includes a quote from Diane LaVigna-Wixted, executive director of the New York Credit Union Foundation. The bill would restrict the ability of employers to use an employee's personal information--including full Social Security number--or file the information in a non-secured area and more. "We at the New York Credit Union Foundation have been working hard, with the Consumer Protection Board and members of the New York State Legislature, to inform credit union members about the dangers of identity theft," said LaVigna-Wixted in the release. "We commend Gov. Paterson for stepping up to the plate and advancing greater protections for all of us," she added. Noting the implications of identity theft for all consumers and the general public, the foundation produced a series of radio and television public service announcements and an educational 12-minute video for web streaming on its prevention. The video will debut this fall.

Montana CUs honor professional volunteers

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HELENA, Mont. (5/23/08)--Gary Clark, president/CEO of Missoula FCU, was recently named Montana Credit Union Professional of the Year for 2008.
Gary Clark (left), the 2008 Montana Credit Union Professional of the Year, poses with Tracie Kenyon, president/CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network.
From left, Richard Lohof, Bill Pedersen, Robert Fox, Richard Naumen Sr., and Greg Erpenbach with their volunteer awards. Recipients David Grubbs, Michael Mennie, and William Pedersen are not pictured. (Photos provided by the Montana Credit Union Network)

The award, presented by the Montana Credit Union Network, recognizes Clark’s contributions to credit unions over the course of his 31-year career. He has been president/CEO of the credit union for 13 years. Seven members of Avanta FCU’s board of directors were recognized for their commitment and contributions to the Montana credit union movement. Richard Nauman, Sr. (Park City), Robert Fox and Richard Lohof (Laurel), Gregory Erpenbach, David Grubbs, Michael Mennie and William Pedersen (Billings), were recognized as the network’s 2008 Mitch Reed Volunteers of the Year. Together the seven have a combined total of 158 years of experience volunteering for credit unions. “We’re very fortunate to have a group of board members that are so engaged in our credit union, our activities, and the credit union movement overall,” said Rhonda Diefenderfer, Avanta FCU president/CEO.

Membership Growth Northwoods Community CU

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PARK FALLS, Wis. (5/23/08)--Growth doesn’t come easy in Wisconsin’s northwoods. Just ask Susan Schmidt, president/CEO of Northwoods Community CU. Her credit union is headquartered in a town--Park Falls, Wis.--that’s experienced annual average population declines of 2% since 2000, according to U.S. Census data. And the county (Price County) that serves as the credit union’s home base has population that’s been declining at an annual average rate of 1%. But over this same period, Northwoods Community CU memberships actually increased: The credit union’s 0.5% average annual membership increase is laudable given the area’s demographic changes. And its focus on reaching out and deepening relationships with current members is producing fast asset growth. New products, membership growth drives directed at specific groups, and a continual focus on member services are the forces behind her credit union’s solid growth. In fact, the $50.1 million asset credit unions realized 17.9 % growth in assets this past year. This is the second installment of News Now’s Membership Growth weekly interviews with fast credit union growers. The series is as part of an initiative of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Membership Growth Task Force. It focuses on fast "organic" membership growth, not growth by merger or indirect loans. The task force, chaired by Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas Credit Union League, was convened at the request of CUNA's Immediate Past Board Chair Allan Kemp McMorris. Its purpose is to investigate, report on, and encourage credit unions to embrace opportunities, techniques and processes that will increase credit unions' membership retention and growth. “The credit union’s mission is to provide outstanding service and security to our members. A focus on member services has always been a key for us,” Schmidt said. Because of that focus, the credit union introduced two new products this past year. The “Premier Account” is a new account that allows members to receive higher interest rates on deposits in their accounts and an increase in basis points on certificates of deposit. “The Premier Account provides excellent rates, cash availability and alternative deposit relations--which mean members can branch into other accounts and can receive the increased basis points that they get with certificates of deposit,” Schmidt said. Another product introduced in 2007 was a “very aggressive certificate program” that allows Northwoods to pay above-market rates, Schmidt said. The certificate pays out at 7% over the short term, but the credit union places a cap on the dollar amount that can be put into the certificate program, she added. One of the prime groups the credit union targets is youth. “We are very active with youth in our area because children are our future, and we want to get them as members and keep them for life,” Schmidt explained. Northwoods is proactive with children. It features kids clubs in which grandparents can open accounts for their grandchildren. The credit union also is active in financial literacy for kids, and has an annual drawing for two computers. Each time youth make a deposit to their account, they fill out a ticket that increases their chances of winning one of the drawings. Those in the “Teen Cent$ Club” are eligible for a drawing for a laptop computer. Kids, six months through 12 years old, who are in the Kangaroo Kids Club, are eligible for a desktop computer drawing. The credit union also is holding a membership drive for adults in which existing members are eligible for two drawings for a flat screen TV when they refer a new member who opens an account at Northwoods. Northwoods continually nurtures relationships with real estate brokers in the area to make them aware that the credit union is available for home loans. The credit union always tries to solicit small businesses for their financial needs. Northwoods has a director of business development, who heads up this area to establish fruitful relationships. Northwoods purchased a facility in nearby Ashland, Wis., opened a branch and put in an ATM and a drive-up facility. “We were leasing a building in that area, and based on a member survey, we realized our members wanted more service, so we purchased a building. The Ashland area is a good membership area for us,’ Schmidt said. Northwoods serves a seven-county area in northwestern Wisconsin, and has been a community credit union since the early 1970s. A combination of factors was responsible for the credit union’s solid growth in 2007. “We generated good income for the year by reducing expenses, and also increased loan investment interest income that allowed us to experience good return on assets,” Schmidt explained. “Our youth program in financial literacy continues to move in a good direction, with our kids club growing over 40% in new members last year. “Also, visits to our website were up 40% from the past year. It provides ways to grow demand for our products and services,” she added. In the future, the credit union intends to get more involved with indirect lending. Northwoods just started to venture into that area this year. "We are partnering with a vendor to help us be more aggressive in expanding membership lending for autos, Harley Davidson motorcycles and recreational vehicles,” she concluded. Anyone who wants to contact the CUNA Membership Growth Task Force can e-mail the account established for this purpose at

Navy Federal to expand FOM to all armed forces

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VIENNA, Va. (5/23/08)--Navy FCU says it will expand its field of membership to include all branches of the armed forces. Membership benefits will be available to all Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force active duty, reserve and guard personnel and all civilians working in the Department of Defense, the $35 billion asset credit union said in a press release. The credit union outlined two reasons for the expansion. "In today's military environment," said President/CEO Cutler Dawson, "all branches of the armed forces share resources, conduct joint operations, serve on the same bases, and use the same exchanges, commissaries, and medical facilities. So we believe the time is right to extend that legacy of service …" Also, all members would benefit because membership growth would allow the credit union to offer a broader range of products and services at competitive rates. The credit union's name will remain the same. Last year the credit union increased its worldwide network of branches by 25% to 150 branches and hired 2,600 new employees for a total of 7,300 employees worldwide. Plans are underway to more than double the number of full-service branches in the next four years.

CDCU opens branch in Brooklyn underserved area

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (5/23/08)--Brooklyn Cooperative FCU--the youngest community development credit union (CDCU) in New York City--celebrated the opening of a new branch in the underserved Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood last weekend.
From left: CDIF Fund Director Donna Gambrell; U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez; and Brooklyn Cooperative FCU CEO Jack Lawson, in front of the credit union's new branch. (Photo provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
Donna Gambrell, director of the federal Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, presented an award check of $393,998 to the credit union’s leadership. Also on hand were U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, chairperson of the House Small Business Committee; U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and State Assemblyman Darryl Towns, chairman of the New York State Assembly Banks Committee. They expressed their support for the federal CDFI Fund and the New York State CDFI Fund. The state fund was created last year to help CDFIs leverage increased federal and private sector support. New York City Council Member Letitia James has also been a strong supporter of the credit union. “Now more than ever, during these tough economic times, it is important for all New Yorkers to have the opportunity to chart their own course to financial freedom," said Velazquez. Since its founding in 2000, Brooklyn Cooperative FCU has grown to $7.3 million in assets and serving 4,765 members. It has received six financial assistance and technical assistance awards totaling more than $1.1 million from the CDFI Fund since 2001. The grants enabled the credit union to establish a firm financial base, and with the most recent award, to branch out from its headquarters in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The National Credit Union Foundation awarded the credit union a $50,000 Innovation Grant earlier this year to support the underserved branch opening. “I’ve been working with credit unions and other CDFIs for a number of years as chairman of the Assembly Banks Committee," said Towns. "But throughout that time I’ve been dying to have a CDFI that I could call my own, one that is addressed right in my district, and I’m very happy to finally welcome the Brooklyn Cooperative FCU to this neighborhood." The new branch will be open five days a week and will offer the credit union's core financial services: low-fee loans, savings accounts, checking accounts and ATM card, tax preparation assistance, homeownership counseling, housing loans, and small-business technical assistance and loans. Cliff Rosenthal, president/CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, described Brooklyn Cooperative FCU as “one of the most successful start-up credit unions of the last decade anywhere in the country."

Mobiloil FCU receives FHLB 90000 grant deposit

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BEAUMONT, Texas (5/23/08)--The Beaumont Habitat for Humanity was a recipient of a $90,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas as part of the bank’s Affordable Housing Grants program. Habitat deposited the grant into its Mobiloil FCU account in Beaumont. The $214 million asset Mobiloil has been involved with Beaumont Habitat for Humanity for the past six years. Habitat’s director is a member of the credit union (LoneStar Leaguer May 22). Throughout the past year, credit union employees volunteered to help build homes for the organization. Kim Heinz, CEO, Mobiloil FCU, working with other volunteers, helped frame a home in a neighboring community three weeks ago. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling when the walls go up on a home,” Heinz told the Texas Credit Union League. “You are just overcome by so much emotion--a feeling that you’ve achieved something great.” Mobiloil FCU has a program called CU Share, which rewards employees for volunteer work in the community. Each hour of volunteer work pushes them closer to being a top volunteer. The reward for being the top volunteer is the credit union donates $500 to the top volunteer’s organization of choice.

MCUA studying subprime impact on Missourians

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ST. LOUIS (5/23/08)--Missourians, like consumers across the country, are being hit hard by the subprime mortgage crisis--and it isn’t just those losing homes to foreclosure who are hurting. The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) is examining the trends and possible solutions for everyone affected. MCUA commissioned a study on how the subprime mortgage crisis has affected Missourians from Nancy Pierce, Ph.D., of the Tipton Research Group and Robert Weagley, Ph.D., chair of the Personal Financial Planning Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The study analyzes the mortgage activity 114 counties and St. Louis. Its report will suggest possible responses by lawmakers, credit unions, and consumers Missouri is listed by the Center for Responsible Lending as one of 24 states projected to lose more than $1 billion in home values from foreclosure. An estimated 17,000 homes would be lost to foreclosure. In turn, this affects another 738,000 homeowners whose property values would decline. The overall declines could impact tax revenues for many communities already financially strapped due to the economic downturn, said MCUA in a press release. According to Realtytrac, Missouri’s foreclosure rate at the end of 2007 was up 91.4% from year-end 2006, and its mortgage delinquency rate is above the national average. Missouri ranked fifth in the nation in its mortgage delinquency rate. Because of this, Missouri foreclosures could increase in the last half of 2008. The MCUA study results include counties and demographics most affected by the mortgage crisis, and predictions for the future. MCUA will release the final study results in early July, and provide suggested responses to help lawmakers, homeowners, credit unions, and communities take action. For more information on the study contact Peggy Nalls, senior vice president/public and legislative affairs, at or 573-636-1010.

CUNA closed Monday for holiday

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (5/23/08)--The Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., offices of the Credit Union National Association will be closed on Monday, in observance of Memorial Day. News Now will not publish on Monday but will resume regular publication Tuesday.