FORT SMITH, Ark. (7/22/08)--Despite a slow economy and problems in the financial markets, Arkansas credit unions are going strong, according to an Arkansas newspaper. As of March 31, about 26,000 members at seven credit unions in Fort Smith, Ark., have deposits totaling roughly $112 million (Times Record July 20). Although credit unions operate like banks, they have different goals, Katye Long, public relations specialist with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), told the newspaper. “One of the big differences is that [credit unions] are not-for-profit cooperatives, which means that they’re existing to serve their members rather than make a profit like a lot of financial institutions,” Long said. Members of Fort Smith Dixie Cup FCU, located on the grounds of the Dixie manufacturing company, have a sense of responsibility not only with their money but with that of their co-workers because the credit union is close to the company, Vickie Newton, manager/CEO of the $11.2 million asset credit union, told the paper. Delinquencies at the credit union are less than 1%, Newton said, adding that the low delinquency rate stems from members realizing that it is their money at the credit union--not someone else’s--and that they are working together to build financial security. Credit union members in Arkansas received $27.09 million in direct financial benefits in 2007--equivalent to $94 per member, CUNA statistics reveal. In the face of economic trouble, such as the U.S. mortgage crisis, Arkansas Best FCU, an $87.4 million asset credit union, has seen minimal change in its financial status the past six to 12 months--with the exception of higher loan losses experienced by most credit unions, Norma Mears, president/CEO of the credit union, said. Because credit unions in the Fort Smith area don’t necessarily provide mortgages, they haven’t been affected by the subprime mess that has hit many banks, Newton said. Area credit unions also have benefited from the fact that banks have had to raise their rates to offset losses in the subprime mortgage area, Newton added.