TAMPA, Fla. (10/1/09)--Due to a struggling economy, GTE FCU laid off about 5% of its employees at its Tampa, Fla., headquarters on Friday. The credit union had roughly 600 employees. The board looked at several scenarios when assessing the layoffs--including the “human factor” and net worth, Doug Richardson, GTE FCU senior vice president of marketing, told News Now. Employees who were laid off received severance packages based on their years of service. The credit union is not planning any future layoffs, unless area unemployment rates significantly increase. Currently, the unemployment rate in the Tampa area is at 10%. “We made loans to people who had jobs and now they’ve lost their jobs,” Richardson said. GTE FCU also closed eight branches Sept. 15. The branches were located in Portland, Maine; Baton Rouge, La.; New Orleans; and north Florida. The credit union alerted members prior to the closings that they could still receive service through GTE’s telephone center, shared branching and CO-OP network ATMs. “We did the best we could,” Richardson said. The closings allow the credit union to focus more on the Tampa area--where 75% of members are located, he added. Although GTE FCU is being careful with its funds given the tough economy, it is still putting a lot of time and energy into its U22 savings and debit account program, which was launched this year and targets 12- to 22-year old members. As of this week, the program has 1,600 accounts with 56% brand-new accounts, Richardson said. The credit union has offered some incentives, such as meeting Tampa Bay Rays baseball player Evan Longoria, and is looking to further promote U22 at an upcoming music festival.