BEAVERTON, Ore., and FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (6/11/10)--The boards of directors of the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO) and the Washington Credit Union League have signed a letter of intent to merge, they announced Thursday. Pending independent votes of the two states' memberships and their boards' joint approval of the final business plan, the regional, Northwest-focused credit union trade association will begin operations on Jan. 1. "The executive leadership and boards of the two organizations are aligned in common purpose, vision and desired objectives,” says Washington league President/CEO John Annaloro. “In addition to eventual cost efficiencies, the proposal would create an organization with a strong national voice that empowers Northwest credit unions to exercise more influence within the national credit union system and among third-party product and service providers,” Annaloro said. The two organizations have discussed the possibilities of combining operations for more than 20 years. According to the CUAO President/CEO Troy Stang, in addition to creating greater depth of service to member credit unions, a regional model gives staff the ability to concentrate on their areas of expertise. “The credit union movement benefits from innovation and evolution,” he says. “The proposed merger provides the opportunity to share knowledge, grow networks and collaborate in ways that help our members become more competitive in the markets they serve.” Senior teams from both organizations together are developing the regional operations plan. Town hall meetings will be held in August to discuss that plan with credit unions across the two states. Joint board meetings to consider member feedback are planned for September. “Both boards feel strongly that now is the time for a combined organization to build a sustainable association model to serve their needs into the future,” says Oregon association Board Chairman Gene Pelham, president/CEO of Rogue FCU, Medford. “However, as democratically run associations the approval of the merger, ultimately, is in the hands of our member credit unions.” “It’s important to also note that this proposal will not change either associations’ priorities or core value in all aspects of the credit union environment,” says Washington league Board Chairman Debie Keesee, president/CEO of Spokane Media FCU. “We will continue to provide effective leadership and advocacy for the credit union movement on a local level.” A simultaneous, multi-state membership vote is planned for November.