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CU takes unusual route to growth
BRADENTON, Fla. (8/21/12)--In attempts to bolster growth, Manatee Community FCU in Bradenton, Fla., earlier this year became the third credit union in Florida to be certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Known as Tropicana FCU until mid-2010, a select employee group credit union that served employees at beverage-maker Tropicana, Manatee Community saw its membership erode from a zenith of 4,200 to 3,141 today, largely as a result of the company's cutback on its Bradenton productions, said Cindy Barco, the credit union's president for the past 35 years (Herald Tribune.com Aug. 20).

The CDFI designation allows the credit union to expand its lending and other financial products to area residents who are underserved by other financial institutions, the newspaper said.

By focusing on low- to moderate-income residents with its programs, Manatee Community is seeing real growth, Barco told the paper. As of the middle of this year, loans were up 2.5%, compared with a decrease of 13% the year before, she added.

The credit union earned $15,000 in the first quarter, after losing $108,000 in 2011, the paper said.

By partnering with Suncoast Community Capital Corp., which offers credit-builder loan products, second-chance checking and financial education, Manatee Community can make business loans of less than $50,000, the paper said.

The credit union also will soon unveil an auto-purchase program that offers its low-income borrowers better interest rates than they normally would obtain. In October, it will introduce a program for homeowners who have no remaining equity in their homes, so they can obtain loans of $10,000 to $15,000 to make home repairs or energy-efficiency improvements, the paper said.


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