Despite Move To Comm. Charter, Plant's Fate Worries Some Members

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GCS FCU is not in financial trouble despite rumors to the contrary. But that hasn't kept worried members from calling.

In fact, said Marketing Manager Matt Mittendorf, the $160-million GCS FCU has continued to build a healthy financial position following a charter expansion in 2001.

Mittendorf said credit union officials have spent the last few weeks reassuring members that the recent bankruptcy filing of National Steel Corp. will have a minimal impact on their operation.

Since the credit union's primary sponsor (formerly Granite City Steel) filed for bankruptcy on March 6, members have called with concerns about the CU's own financial stability.

"We can say that it will hurt us a little bit, but it's not going to shut our doors,'" Mittendorf said, noting that only 15% of GCS FCU's membership is directly connected to the steel mill.

Prepared For Worst Case

Mittendorf said the CU sent a press release to local newspapers and notified members via its website and lobby handouts that its assets are secure.

Officials with the steel mill-employer of 2,700 people-said they don't anticipate any layoffs as a result of their Chapter 11 filing and plan to conduct business as usual while they restructure the business's financial situation through the bankruptcy courts.

According to Mittendorf, even in a worst-case scenario, the credit union has positioned itself to withstand major layoffs at the mill, and it is prepared to step in and assist those employees who will need help during difficult times.

"Our professional staff is well trained to help members who need financial assistance and budgeting guidance," he said. "We have several options to offer members who ask us for help and we'll be right there ready to help in any way we can."

Charter Change Fuels Growth

The membership of GCS FCU, founded to serve employees of National Steel Corp., has grown substantially since a charter change in 1985 that opened membership to anyone living or working in Granite City, and its most recent charter change in 2001 that included people living or working in all of Madison County.

"Nearly 20 years ago, the credit union showed extreme foresight in expanding its membership criteria to the surrounding community rather than being solely dependent on the steel mill," said Mark Holshouser, President and CEO. "This move allowed the credit union to be sufficiently diversified to the extent that no single membership group would have an extraordinary impact on the credit union's ability to continue operations."

In addition to the most recent charter change, the CU formerly called Granite City Steel and Community FCU changed its name to GSC FCU.

"We wanted the community to know that we can now take in members from all of Madison County,'" he said. "But, at the same time, we didn't want to show disrespect to people who formed this credit union in 1941 for the steel workers."

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