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Chrysler and CUs partnership now available nationwide

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LANSING, Mich. (1/8/09)--Like a similar program with General Motors, America’s credit unions and Chrysler LLC have expanded their “Invest in America” credit union loan partnership from the original pilot of 12 states to all 50, giving 90 million members access to “Credit Union Member Cash” rebates at Chrysler dealers throughout the country. Invest in America makes available more than $80 billion in credit union low-cost auto loans to buy new vehicles. The Chrysler partnership’s program, which began Dec. 16 in 12 states, runs until June 20. It offers Chrysler rebates of $500 or $1,000 on eligible Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. Ed Broadbear, director of incentives and programs for Chrysler, told media in a conference call Wednesday that during the 12-state pilot, the company “saw a significant lift in auto sales” in those states, compared with sales in other states, so it decided to expand the program nationwide. “Financing is a critical concern in today’s economy, and the program provides considerable value to our customers and the economy,” he said. David Adams, president/CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League and its subsidiary, CUcorp, which negotiated the partnership, said CUcorp will work with state associations and credit unions to promote the discounts and cash rebates to boost auto sales. “The $500 and $1,000 cash rebates are layered on top of all the other dealer incentives offered,” he said. Adams noted credit unions reported a surge of an annualized 20% to 80% in growth in auto loans during the pilot, partly due to the incentive. Credit unions “have the liquidity to stimulate the economy, with more than $160 billion in available liquidity.” By making $80 million available for the loan program, credit unions could provide financing for four million auto sales. “Credit unions are doing their part to help the economy,” he said. Details about Chrysler’s “Credit Union Member Cash” program can be found at by using the “Invest in America” resource link.

Arrowhead CU shuttering four branches

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (1/8/09)--Arrowhead CU is reducing its 2009 operating budget by 10% and shuttering four branches to maintain its well-capitalized rating through 2009 and beyond, Arrowhead said. The credit union is closing three branches in grocery stores in Chino Hills, Hemet, and San Jacinto, effective Feb 7. A fourth branch in Murrieta also is closing the same day. ATMs at those locations will remain open. Members in those communities can conduct financial transactions at Arrowhead’s partner credit unions and can access Arrowhead’s online system, said Larry Sharp, Arrowhead President/CEO, in a press release. As a result of the closures, Arrowhead, a $1.032 billion asset, San Bernardino-based credit union, is reducing its 558-person work-force by about 20 positions, Sharp said. The credit union has identified 10 unfilled positions in-house where some employees may be transferred. “The largest foreclosure rate in the country is in that area of San Bernardino and Riverside counties,” Sharp told News Now. “Our credit union was not impacted by the subprime issues, but rather by the downturn in the economy that resulted from the subprime problems. There is 10% unemployment in our area that could reach 12% by year-end. Also, the bankruptcy rate is up 125% now in our area. We don’t know how deep this thing is.” After the closings, Arrowhead will go from 28 to 24 branches, Sharp added. The branch located in a free-standing building will continue to be leased by the credit union until a new tenant is found, Sharp said. Sharp said he is taking a 17% pay cut in a top-to-bottom cost-cutting effort. The credit union also is postponing plans to add new branches and is cutting its budgets for travel, education and community development. “Overall, we are cutting our costs by more than 10% for 2009. These reductions will leave Arrowhead CU strong and well-positioned once the economy turns around so that we can continue to provide outstanding service to our more than 162,000 members,” Sharp said. Sharp, met Tuesday in Washington D.C., with congressional members and NCUA Board to discuss competitive inequities created by the uneven application of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which has excluded credit unions. Joined by fellow California credit union leaders, Sharp discussed the consequences of providing TARP funding only to banks. “I’m mad that Paulson and the Treasury decided to fund our competitors at the banks and give them an advantage in assistance, and leave us out in the cold in the marketplace,” Sharp told News Now. “We’re going to have to take the hit [for now].” The Credit Union National Association has been working with legislators to include credit unions in the TARP initiative.

Demand prompts GMs pilot expansion to 50 states

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LANSING, Mich. (1/8/09)--Credit unions and General Motors announced Wednesday that their four-state pilot of “Invest in America,” a loan incentive program for credit union members, is expanding to all 50 states. “The four-state pilot announced in early December had outstanding response from customers and dealers, with dealers asking to take the program nationwide,” said Jim Bunnell, executive director of Channel Marketing for GM, at a press conference call. “We’re expanding the program to all 50 states, effective today.” The Invest in America program will give 90 million credit union members across the country access to GM’s “Credit Union Member Discount Program” at participating GM dealers, as well as access to affordable financing on new vehicle purchases. Bunnell noted that hits to the website generated a 30% conversion rate into auto loans during the first weeks of the pilot. “Dealers in other states heard about the pilot and said, ‘What about us?’” he said. The national pilot program will run through March 31. It offers GM supplier price discounts on new Buick, Cadillac, Hummer, Saab, Chevrolet, GMC, Saturn and Pontiac cars and trucks. “Credit unions have billions to lend, which in this economy, makes the Invest in America program very timely for General Motors,” said David Adams, president/CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League and its subsidiary, CUcorp, a marketing company for credit unions. “The exclusive credit union member discounts will create a compelling opportunity for the 90 million credit union members nationwide.” Adams said the program's website had 1.3 million hits and credit unions reported an annualized growth rate between 20% and 80% during December since the pilot began. The original pilot with Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio credit unions and dealers will run through the end of June. A separate pilot program with Chrysler LLC also was extended nationally. (See News Now’s article, “Chrysler’s partnership with CUs now available nationwide.”) Adams also said CUcorp and the league were “in active and positive talks with Ford” about the possibility of extending the program.

CUs hold largest assets among co-ops

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MADISON, Wis. (1/8/09)--The four largest U.S. cooperative sectors--including credit unions--hold more than $1 trillion in assets, serve 107 million members, employ 435,000 people and generate more than $19 billion in wages, said a recent University of Wisconsin study. The four sectors studied were agricultural co-ops, the farm credit system, electric co-ops, and credit unions (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 7). “Of the four sectors, credit unions hold the largest amount of assets: $761 billion. Their revenue, however, is roughly one-third that of agricultural cooperatives,” the study said. The study, conducted by the university’s Center for Cooperatives, was commissioned by the National Cooperative Business Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discover the economic impact of cooperatives on the U.S. economy. The researchers were recently awarded a grant to expand the study to mutual insurance, childcare, housing, healthcare, education, transportation, and other non-profit, cooperative organizations. Credit unions nationwide employ over 236,000 people and pay over $9 billion in wages, the study said.

CU System briefs (01/07/2009)

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* NAPERVILLE, Ill. (1/8/09)--The Illinois Youth Involvement Council and University of Illinois Extension sponsored a “Train the Trainer” workshop for the National Endowment for Financial Education’s (NEFE) High School Financial Planning Program. The workshop for teachers and agency staff who work with young adults (ages 14-19) was conducted at the Illinois Credit Union League’s offices in Naperville. HSFPP complements existing money management curricula used in high schools and agencies, according to Kathy Reuter, extension consumer and family economics educator. Reuter is shown here presenting to the group. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League) … * FARGO, N.D. (1/8/09)--A suspect in the Dec. 18 robbery of the Fargo branch of First Community CU allegedly sent a text message to his girlfriend admitting the crime--while police were interviewing her, according to court documents ( Jan. 6). Denver Lee Tergesen was arrested after authorities tracked him through his cell phone’s signals to a stolen car in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Police say he has confessed to robbing the credit union of nearly $10,000 at gunpoint … * TAMPA, Fla. (1/8/09)--The fourth suspect in the Christmas Eve robbery of a branch of the Tampa Postal District FCU was arrested while hiding in a small freezer. Jerome Simmons, 21, had crammed himself in with the ice. Simmons and three others--Richard Charles Harris, 21, Hudson; and Jerald Davis, 22, and Tommy Lee Benton, 49, both of Fort Lauderdale--are charged with armed robbery. During the heist, one suspect dropped his cell phone at a teller’s window (St. Petersburg Times Jan. 1, and South Florida Sun-Sentinel Jan. 6 and Jan. 7) … * BALTIMORE (1/8/09)--MECU of Baltimore announced that in December its members received the second half of their annual cash bonus, which totaled more than $4.2 million. Loan interest rebates were deposited in members’ accounts on Dec. 1, and extraordinary dividends were deposited on Dec. 31. MECU has paid members a cash bonus every year since 1981. In 2007, its board decided to pay half the bonus in June and the other half in December. “Many of our members are teachers,” said Herman Williams Jr., chairman. “By providing part of the cash bonus we offer our members at the start of the summer, it gives our teacher members some extra cash when they most need it.” MECU President/CEO Bert J. Hash Jr. said, “While some area financial institutions have struggled during the past year, MECU has remained well capitalized and ready to help our members with their financial needs in 2009.” … * JACKSON, Miss. (1/8/09)--The merger of Hope Community CU, a $63.4 million asset community development credit union (CDCU) based in Jackson, Miss., and American Savings CU (ASCU), based in Memphis, Tenn., became effective Jan. 1. The merger results in a larger, stronger regional CDCU serving working families in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, said the credit unions. ASCU will retain its name and operate as a division of HOPE until systems are integrated over the coming hear. While HOPE will expand its branch network in three states, ASCU members will receive additional products such as mortgages and small business loans “This partnership builds on the strengths of two institutions to provide an important resource for people struggling to weather the current financial crisis,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum …

CU presents 25000 to displaced GM worker

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DALLAS (1/8/09)--Dallas-based Neighborhood CU personally delivered a $25,000 Grand Prize notification to 27-year-old Tiniska Brooks Saturday--one of the credit union’s Prize Savings Accountholders at her parents’ home in Arlington, Texas.
Click to view larger image Tiniska Brooks received $25,000 from Neighborhood CU Vice President Carolyn Jordan (left) and CEO Chet Brooks after wining one of the credit union’s Grand Prize Savings awards. (Photo provided by Neighborhood CU)
Brooks, who recently took an employee buyout offer from General Motors and has decided to go to nursing school, was overcome with emotion. “You have no idea how much this means to me,” Brooks said. “I’m going to use this money to help pay for nursing school and housing, so I can begin a new career. “Of course, I may have to do a little bit of shopping,” she added. “We are glad we can help enrich Tiniska’s life and strive to do that for all our members,” said Neighborhood CEO Chet Kimmell. “The goal of our Prize Savings Account is to reward people like Tiniska who wisely make the choice to save their money.” Alarmed by declining savings rates, Neighborhood CU established the Prize Savings Account in 2007 to encourage people to save and see how those savings can pay off. Members of the $250 million-asset credit union receive one drawing entry for every $25 monthly average balance in their Prize Savings Accounts. The greater the savings, the greater chance a member has of winning. Throughout the year, drawings are held for smaller prizes, including gift certificates, DVD players and plasma TVs. At the conclusion of each year, a grand prize winner is drawn for the $25,000 jackpot.

New York Foundation announces board officers

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ALBANY, N.Y. (1/8/09)--The trustees of the New York Credit Union Foundation elected a new slate of officers at its December board meeting. The officers are:
* Chair, Vicki O’Neill, president/CEO, ACMG FCU, Solvay; * Vice chair, Bruno Sementilli, president/CEO, Quorum FCU, Purchase; and * Secretary/treasurer, Brian Clarke, chief financial officer, Bethpage FCU, Bethpage.
O’Neill replaces outgoing chair Nancy Kasprzak-Whitmore. Sementilli and Clarke begin second terms in their positions. The board also thanked outgoing board member, Arthur Field, president/CEO of First Heritage FCU, Painted Post, for his seven years of service.

SIU CU students create Facebook campaign

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CARBONDALE, Ill. (1/8/09)--Southern Illinois University CU (SIU CU) has launched a Smart Young Investors Facebook fan page. The page was created by students in the university’s business college and provides information about investing, spending and economic trends. It also includes a discussion board and details upcoming events ( Jan. 7). The students worked with SIU Marketing Director, Chris Sievers, to promote the credit union on Facebook. SIU CU held drawings for new fan page participants who could win $100, $50 or $20. The page has been successful, and the credit union plans to continue marketing through the Web, Sievers said. For more information, use the links. A log-in is required to view the Facebook page.

Pennsylvania foundation breaks fundraising record

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/8/09)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation raised $264,710 as of Dec. 31, exceeding its 2008 fundraising goal of $256,000. The year-end totals are $9,200 more than the $255,499 raised as of Dec. 31, 2007, and an increase of 3.4% over 2007 projections (Life is a Highway Jan. 7). “The foundation’s ability to increase its grants portfolio to a greater number of underserved Pennsylvanians despite diminished economic results during the second half of 2008 helped maintain a steady flow of funds that benefited the foundation and made this record result possible,” said Foundation Chairman Norb Kaczmarek, CEO of Erie (Pa.) FCU. Foundation Vice Chairman and Fundraising Chairman Dave Ackerman, CEO of USX FCU, Cranberry Township, Pa., was fundraising chairman for the foundation. Kaczmarek and Ackerman challenged the board to continue its work in 2009 during even greater economic challenges, the foundation said. The foundation has raised more than $2.3 million since its inception in 1996.