Okla. CUL Seeks To Build Own CU House In Capital

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The Oklahoma Credit Union League is trying to raise approximately $1.2 million to build its own version of CUNA's Credit Union House in the nation's capital in the state capital of Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma's Credit Union House will be owned by a CUSO the league is forming called CU House, LLC, so it will be owned by the credit unions who buy into the CUSO, according to OCUL CEO Lisa Finley. The facility will house the league's governmental affairs and compliance staff, but will also serve as a place for credit unions to meet with state lawmakers, host receptions and other meetings or events.

The league has long discussed the possibility of opening an office or actually moving its headquarters from Tulsa to the state capital because of the importance of being in Oklahoma City to lobby state lawmakers on credit union issues.

"In September 2004, our delegates passed a resolution for the board to look into putting a league office in the state capitol," OCUL President Lisa Finley explained. "Since the league's inception, it has been located in Tulsa, but we do have a large percentage of our staff located in Oklahoma City, but there was no physical location there."

The long history of the league's presence in Tulsa, plus the potential affect on league staffers currently living in the Tulsa area led OCUL to look at the Credit Union House as an alternative to literally moving the league to Oklahoma City. "That could still happen in the future," Finley noted. "I will probably locate my office there and go back and forth between the two locations."

The league intends to allow natural attrition to allow it to slowly move staff to Oklahoma City. "I would expect that within two years probably half of our staff will be in Oklahoma City," she offered. At that time, the league's lease for its current offices in Tulsa will be up, and the plan is to be able to reduce the amount of space leased there-a potential cost savings to the league, since it is expected the league will be able to work out an inexpensive agreement with the CU House CUSO for the space OCUL will occupy in that facility.

Finley said over the next four to five weeks she will be working on getting everything in order for CU House, LLC's initial offering. No minimums or maximums on ownership stakes have been set as yet, but she said the goal is to ensure a broad range of participation from credit unions all across the state.

"Credit Union House will be owned by credit unions. There will be an agreement between Credit Union House and the league to allow us to house some of our staff there," Finley related. "We have had great response so far from our member credit unions. Initially we had some questions, such as do we really need two locations, and will this fill the need. But as credit unions learn more about it, they are getting more and more excited about it."

The CUSO is in negotiations for land within the capital's main corridor, providing a highly visible presence. "The capital is visible from there," she added, noting the facility is expected to be about 5,800 to 6,000 square feet, which will include a 1,500 square foot "event center" to be used for legislative receptions, planning sessions, education and training sessions, as well as for credit unions to use for their own purposes.

Of the estimated $1.2 million needed, about $850,000 of that is for the building itself, with the rest attributed to the cost of land. The site currently being looked at is currently owned by Credit Union One.

Finley said current plans call for the exterior to be "home like." "We want it to be warm and inviting," she said. "This is something that we can hold out as a credit union legacy; it will be there for years to come."

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