New CUSO's Goal Is To Drive Member Business Lending In The Dakotas

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BISMARK, N.D.-A website has been launched and a CUSO is being formed to drive business lending in the Dakotas.

The website, www.cubusinesslending.com, was recently introduced by the CU Association of the Dakotas in response to the fact that banks received $30 billion in funding in the Jobs Bill while credit unions were left out. "Even though credit unions have been and continue to make small business loans, we were excluded," noted Robbie Thompson, president and CEO of the league, who pointed out that CU business lending is significantly outpacing banks' activity in North and South Dakota.

Over the last 12 months CU MBL growth stands at 17% in North Dakota and 7% in South Dakota, with banks' commercial business loan growth at -2% and -10% respectively. "We want the website to be the solution to help small businesses find the financing they need," Thompson said.

Promoting Safety & Soundness

The site includes information about CU business lending and how credit unions have been helping small businesses while banks have turned away. It promotes that CUs are safe and sound, includes general CU FAQs, and links to CUNA's CU Locator. More than 75 credit unions were queried in the first two weeks the site was launched, said Thompson, who noted that no advertising was in place at the time. The league plans to begin a multi-media advertising campaign to drive site traffic, starting with search engine buys on Google.

A Lobbying Advantage, Too

Thompson believes the website will be an advantage when the league approaches state and federal legislators to discuss raising the MBL cap.

"We want elected officials to be more aware that credit unions are in the business of business lending and have been for years. Our discussions with government leaders will be much easier if legislators are already familiar with the fact CUs have been helping out Main Street."

The site will complement a new business lending CUSO the league is forming. Called Midwest Business Solutions, seven investor credit unions from both North and South Dakota have signed on already.

"We hope to have a CEO in place by the end of December and be making loans by the end of the first quarter of next year," Thompson said. "This CUSO will be able to help many small and medium-size credit unions, in particular, serve their members and diversify their portfolio by adding business lending without taking on the cost of forming a business lending department."

Staff will be employees of the association, but the CUSO will be based out of Black Hills FCU in Rapid City, S.D.

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