COLUMBUS, Ohio (9/23/09)--The "flight to safety" trend continues in Ohio with 30,000 more Ohioans joining credit unions to take advantage of lower loan rates, better savings rates and fewer fees, reported the Ohio Credit Union League. The 1.28% increase in members through the first six months of 2009--to 2.66 million--represents the first annual growth in five years for the state's credit unions, said the league Tuesday. As of June, total shares deposited in Ohio credit unions stood at $16.9 billion--or 18.4% over the previous year. Total assets grew nearly 18.5% during that same period. "We are seeing growth in membership that we have not seen in some time," said league President Paul Mercer. "Credit unions have done an outstanding job positioning themselves for growth by staying true to their philosophy, offering financial solutions to existing members, and helping new members understand the value of the credit union difference." Despite a weak housing market and slow auto sales in the second quarter, Ohio credit unions are reversing this trend, showing growth in both lending categories--a 50.2% increase for mortgage originations and an eight-percentage point increase to 8.94% for auto loans over a year earlier. Year-to-date vehicle sales through June were down 35.1% nationally, while total outstanding auto loans at Ohio credit unions increased by 12%. First mortgage originations for the period totaled $960.5 million at Ohio's credit unions, vs. $639.5 million during the same period in 2008. Overall loan growth from June 2008 to June 2009 in the state was up nearly 7.5%--almost double credit unions nationwide. Capital growth for Ohio credit unions more than doubled the national credit union average of 0.74%. The average Ohio credit union has 6,605 members, $49.04 million in assets and $30.25 million in loans. Credit unions employ more than 6,800 Ohioans and contribute nearly $140 million in compensation to employees annually, according to the most recent quarterly financial report.