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Americas CU Conference and Expo opens today

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NEW YORK CITY (6/30/08)--America's Credit Union Conference & Expo officially kicks off this morning at the Hilton New York, with more than 1,670 credit union executives, volunteers and guests attending and "Powering Up" with more than 35 speakers. The attendance is the largest group since 1997's convention in Las Vegas, said the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), which presents the annual conference. Planners are happy with the turnout, especially in a weak economic environment. Consumers across the country have cut back long-distance travel and generally are sticking closer to home because of high gas prices, food prices, and transportation costs. Four hundred vendors are registered for the event, and the Exhibit Hall is sold out, according to Todd Spiczenski, CUNA vice president. Conference tickets to optional events also sold out, including three Broadway plays--"Lion King," "Gypsy," and "Mama Mia" and tonight's New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers game. The makeup of the attendees is slightly different. This year, 45% are executive and credit union staff, compared with last year's 60%, but the event grew in the board member area, Spiczenski said, with 55% attending are volunteers. The average asset size of attendees' credit unions is $600 million, with a median asset size of $350 million. About 65 credit unions with less than $35 million in assets took advantage of the small-credit union discounts offered by CUNA. Some attendees arrived earlier this weekend to tour a community development credit union with the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, which is headquartered in New York City. Today's keynoters include retired New York City Fire Department Chief Richard Picciotto, author of Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story about the events of 9/11; and Susan Packard, co-founder of Home and Garden Television (HGTV), who will discuss new business models and branding. Closing day speaker will be Steve Farber, speaking about "The Radical Leap: Extreme Leadership at Work and Beyond." Thought leader discussions run the gamut of topics--from how good leaders manage themselves first, to how blogs, potcasts, viral marketing and online media can help tap their members directly. The conference will conclude Wednesday. To see what you're missing, check out the resource link.

Thousands of flooded members get help from Wisconsin CUs

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (6/30/08)--Wisconsin credit unions are offering special loan terms or reducing or waiving fees on financial services to help people recover in the wake of widespread flooding. No credit unions have reported flood damage to the Wisconsin Credit Union League. However, thousands of their members were affected by the floods, and many credit unions have prepared to help them. “Credit unions see first-hand the need for relief in the communities in which they live and serve,” says Brett Thompson, league president/CEO. “While assistance may vary among credit unions, in situations like this, they’re doing everything in their power to help their members.” One credit union has set aside $1.5 million to offer existing members below-market-rate home equity loans of up to $5,000 for as long as five years. The loans are intended to help people with clean-up services; home repairs; wall repairs; and replacement of furnaces, hot water heaters, washer and dryers, or furniture damaged in the flood. The credit union is also extending an auto loan special, with rates as low as 3.99%, to accommodate members needing to replace flood-damaged cars, and it is allowing qualifying members with consumer loans to skip one month’s payment without fees, the league said. In other areas, credit unions have suspended or waived overdraft charges and other fees for members. And because of road closures that have made some credit unions difficult to access, several credit unions are helping each other’s members by cashing their checks or providing cash withdrawals. “In times like these, locally owned credit unions are able to step up quickly with meaningful help for their members,” Thompson said. Thompson said it has been encouraging to see volunteers in communities across Wisconsin pulling together to help with sandbagging, cleanup and fund-raising in the aftermath of the devastation. Ironically, a retiree who spent 25 years as a volunteer on the Board of Directors for one Milwaukee area credit union lost everything when his home washed away in flood waters. A fund has been established at his credit union to help the family. “They are starting from scratch, having to replace almost everything for daily living,” Thompson explains. “They have no home, no land and no possessions, but they still have a mortgage, property taxes and the cost of demolishing what’s left of their home. So they’re thankful their credit union was first in line to help.”

B.C. Ontario central CUs announce merger

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VANCOUVER, B.C. (6/30/08)--Credit Union Central of British Columbia and Credit Union Central of Ontario will officially merge on Tuesday. The new association, named Central 1 CU, will have about $8 billion in combined assets and will represent more than 200 credit unions serving 2.7 million members in the two Canadian provinces. It will provide banking, treasury and trade services to the credit unions (Vancouver Sun June 27). Central 1's headquarters will be in Vancouver. It also will keep an office in Mississauga, Ont. Of the 500 people employed, two-thirds will be based in Vancouver. The merger is significant because it is considered a first step in creating a national organization that can support credit unions across Canada, Central 1 CEO Don Rolfe told the Sun. Rolfe said he hopes the credit union systems of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada would join Central 1 in the future. Those systems are waiting to see how this first merger goes before making commitments to a future merger. Quebec's credit unions or caisses populaires have their own system under the Desjardins Group. Rolfe indicated Central 1 would be willing to work with Quebec's group on some opportunities.

Calif.Nev. leagues capture marketing awards

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (6/30/08)--The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues earned honors recently in several national and international communications competitions.
Award -winning public affairs staff from the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues include: Tina Ramos-Ingold, public affairs coordinator; Matt Buck, public affairs specialist; Patricia Mendez, administrative assistant; and Henry Kertman, vice president of public affairs. (Photos provided by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues)
The honors went to their flagship publication, Credit Union Digest; a marketing campaign for the 2007 Big Valley Educational Conference; a public advocacy campaign website and radio ad; and a special video of grant recipients. The July 2007 Credit Union Digest feature article, “The Next Big Thing,” received a first-place award in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Center for Association Leadership’s Gold Circle Award. The article was written by Jenny Boyle, publications specialist and writer. The league received Awards of Distinction from The Communicators Awards, an international competition, for a feature article ("The Next Big Thing") and the 2007 Big Valley Educational Conference marketing campaign. In its first entry to the Videographers Award, an international competition, the leagues received an Award of Distinction for a video about credit union members impacted by the California wildfires and who received grants from the National Credit Union Foundation. It was produced by Graphic Designer Danielle Price.
Blockbuster Awards winners from the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues included, from left: Jenny Boyle, publicatiokns specialist and writer; David Dudley, marketing specialist; Carol Payne, vice president of communications and marketing; Patricia Mendez, administrative assistant; Natalie J. Moreno, lead graphic designer; LaDonna Kohler, print buyer; Danielle Price, graphic designer; and John Drago, vice president of information technology.
In the four-minute video, the recipients emotionally recount devastating losses they incurred and thanked those who donated to help them. The leagues also received four first-place Pro & Blockbuster awards, sponsored by the Credit Union National Association. In the Pro Awards, the site won in the Best World Wide Website category, and Credit Union Digest took the top prize in the Most Improved Publication category. As part of the 2007 Public Advocacy Program, was launched to increase the effectiveness in building awareness and support for credit unions. In the Blockbuster Award, the "Famous" radio ad from the 2007 Public Advocacy Program came in first in the Best Credit Union Radio Spot category; and the Big Valley Conference campaign was honored as Best Campaign with a budget of under $10,000. “Famous” and two other ads used for the 2007 campaign, used a tongue-in-cheek approach to attract quick attention on what credit unions can do for consumers. “Famous” used the story of “Jane” and how credit unions helped her become a successful business owner, and brought benefit to her community as well.

37 CDCUs help low-incomers keep millions in tax refunds

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NEW YORK (6/30/08)--Thirty-seven community development credit unions (CDCUs) and eight Community Development Partner credit unions helped low-income residents keep millions of dollars in their communities as a part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The CDCUs, which are members of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, teamed up to prepare 6,681 returns and bring New Yorkers $7.8 million in refunds and between $2 million and $4 million in stimulus payments. VITA users who deposit their tax refund in a savings account are eligible to receive up to a $250 match after one year. Tongass FCU, Ketchikan, Alaska, has operated a VITA site for five years. It has helped more than 100 individuals receive $47,000 in tax credits. This year, the credit union reached Metlakatla, an island town of 1,400 residents, where Tongass is the only financial institution. State Employees’ CU, Raleigh, N.C., returned $14.2 million to 15,500 people at 216 VITA sites this year. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Tucson, Ariz., helped more than 550 people file taxes this year, with more than $1 million in returns. The tribe is working with the federation to organize its own CDCU. Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y., helped file more than 1,200 returns, returning an average of $1,514 to clients. ASI FCU, Harahan, La., has helped Louisianans with taxes for the past six years. “ASI continues to be a VITA sponsor because the program helps residents avoid predatory lenders and brings much-needed money into the community,” said Shannon Cian, VITA coordinator at the credit union. “It’s also important to note that in addition to VITA sites being an incredible benefit to the community, they are also a great membership growth strategy for the participating credit unions,” said federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “Many of our CDCUs experience their greatest growth during the tax preparation season because of their VITA sites.”

CU System brief (06/27/2008)

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* NEWARK, N.J. (6/30/08)--U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), second from left, was honored before 60 New Jersey credit union leaders June 23 as the New Jersey Credit Union League's (NJCUL) Credit Union 2008 Legislator of the Year. Payne, a Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA) co-sponsor, has voted with credit unions on key issues such as the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act; Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction (FACT) Act and Conference Report; Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21); and the FDIC Reform Act. League President/CEO Paul Gentile noted Payne's ardent support and said Payne "truly understands our issues. He understands that while banks are looking to grow and expand, they expect credit unions to continue to operate under the 1934 model." With Payne are, from left: NJCUL Board Director Calvin Jackson, Gentile, and league Chairman Steve Schlundt. (Photo provided by the New Jersey Credit Union League) …

New Jersey league opens satellite office in Trenton

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TRENTON, N.J. (6/30/08)--The New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) has a new home in Trenton.
The New Jersey Credit Union League's new satellite office, housed in this three-story Victorian building in Trenton, will assist the league with advocacy efforts. (Photo provided by the New Jersey Credit Union League)
The league opened a satellite office at 172 West State St., just blocks from the State Capitol. "It's no secret that we are very focused on increasing awareness of credit unions among lawmakers and looking for ways to improve the operating climate for New Jersey credit unions," said league President/CEO Paul Gentile. "It is important to have a presence in Trenton to continue our push on these fronts." The league will maintain an office in the three-story Victorian building built in 1897. The building, which received the 2001 Preservation Award for historic buildings in Trenton, features conference space that will be used for several purposes, including meetings with lawmakers, key credit union leaders and others. "This is not just for show. We will increase our staff time there and begin to bring in new elements to further utilize the space," said Gentile. The NJCUL Board unanimously approved the new location at a recent board meeting. "We are thrilled to see the league getting more politically active. Credit unions need to understand that there are so many things pending in Trenton that will affect all of us. It¹s vital for us to have a presence," said NJCUL Chairman Steve Schlundt. NJCUL currently is working on modernizing the state's state-charter act. The league has met with state officials about the goals of modernization, which would include expanded field-of-membership powers, among others, said the league.

New N. Y. Senate majority leader aware of CU issues

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LATHAM, N.Y. (6/30/08)--The Credit Union Association of New York says that the state's new Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Long Island), is aware of credit unions and their issues. Skelos was installed as the new majority leader less than 24 hours after the former Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Capital) shocked colleagues by announcing he would not seek re-election. During his acceptance speech, Skelos declared that property tax relief would be among his first priorities. "We congratulate Senator Skelos on his appointment and look forward to continuing our relationship with him in his new position," said William J. Mellin, president/CEO of the credit union association. "We have a good relationship with the senator, having worked with him and his office for years. He is aware of credit unions and our issues. Our credit unions in his district are politically active and will be good partners to further strengthen that relationship." Bruno had been in the Senate for 32 years. His declaration came at a time when Democrats have advanced their position throughout the state, the league said. With all the state's lawmakers' two-year terms ending in December, Democrats have "a very good chance" of becoming the Senate's majority after elections, the league added.