SAGINAW, Mich. (5/19/10)--Three credit unions in Saginaw County, Mich., are helping get the word out that there's money to lend to small businesses. Wildfire CU of Kochville Township, United Financial CU of Bridgeport, and Frankenmuth (Mich.) CU have earmarked a collective $2.5 million specifically for small businesses, said The Saginaw News (via mlive.com May 18). The three credit unions are among more than 30 credit unions in the state that formed the Michigan Credit Union Small Business Financing Alliance, pledging a collective $43 million to lend through the program. Wildfire said it pledged $1 million because there is a need in the community for business lending. Andrea Hales, Wildfire's vice president of business lending, noted the economy has tightened credit and businesses are finding it harder to get loans. As a result credit unions "have become bigger players in the market, which gives customers an alternative," she told the newspaper. Wildfire has loaned to small businesses for years, but the alliance makes the process easier because it is getting the word out that credit unions have money to lend,. Some people still don't know that, Hales said. The alliance works with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s 12 regional Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Centers across the state to educate entrepreneurs and small business owners about how to start a business and apply for credit, said Dave Adams CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League. While Michigan banks cut back on small business loans by 68% in 2009, Michigan credit unions increased small business loans by 18%, Adams told the newspaper. United Financial CU told the newspaper it earmarked $1 million for the program but would lend more if the opportunity arose. Frankenmuth CU said the cooperative effort will make a difference because small business lending is the biggest addition to its business.