La.'s CU's Move Back In; Awaiting Members

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With schools reopening in some of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, people are slowly trickling back in to New Orleans, but credit unions are still waiting to see how many of their employees will come back-and how they will hire replacements if they don't.

"The next big hurdle for credit unions is going to be getting employees," said Louisiana CU League's Alicia Blanda, who was just happy to finally be back in LCUL's Harahan office after months of working out of Baton Rouge. "We are participating in some job fairs, including one we will be hosting in our atrium. There had been some job fairs right after the storm, but they weren't as successful because so many people were still in a wait-and-see mode. So, we're waiting for January to do them."

But there are signs the population is returning. "You can tell by the traffic that people have returned," Blanda said. "For a while there, the traffic in Baton Rouge was really, really bad because of all the people who were temporarily living or working in Baton Rouge, and then the highway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans was packed with people who were still unable to move back home but were going to New Orleans to try and clean up. The traffic in Baton Rouge is getting better now, but it's getting worse in New Orleans."

And there is a new-albeit macabre-sort of tourism. "I personally avoid some of the hardest hit areas, but but apparently, the tourists go there," Blanda related. "The (levee) breach is the new tourist attraction."

As residents and tourists begin to filter back into New Orleans, the infrastructure that serves those people has to ramp up. Credit unions are hardly the only ones seeking employees.

"I know you've heard this before, but it is still true. Burger King, Arby's, Wendy's-they're all offering $10 an hour and a $6,000 signing bonus, and I hear management gets even more. Credit unions may offer the better jobs, but there are a lot of people out there just looking at the dollar signs," Blanda related.

But for the league, the question of how soon it will be able to rehire some of the employees it was forced to lay off is still unanswered. "We've only been back in our office for two days," she said. "It's going to take a little more time. I know one of the people who was laid off has found another job, so she probably won't come back."

In addition, LCUL EVP Cheryl Oggs, who literally lost everything in her St. Bernard's Parish home, has turned in her resignation. She will be relocating to Florida to be near her family.

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