What Issues Are Your Members Facing?

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PITTSBURGH-During the 36th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved-which included the 6th Latino Credit Union Conference-Credit Union Journal asked attendees what are the issues facing their membership and the credit union.

Barbara Goodwin, CEO of the $28-million Fitchburg FCU, Fitchburg, Penn.

"The city of Fitchburg is laying off a lot of fire and police workers and they make up a great deal of our membership. They are also not replacing those who retire, so it is making it very hard for us to grow. Plus our members are facing financial trouble, not only due to city layoffs, but from spouses losing their jobs, as well. Just staying in business is challenging right now. ROA is -.02 after the assessment, and with revenue pressure we are all feeling, I have to look for ways to improve the bottom line. That is why I am at this conference. I am looking to reach out to the Hispanic community, and I can do that because I serve a high school that is 50% Hispanic. I also have my application in to become a community development credit union. Not only will it allow me to better serve the underserved, it will provide my credit union with secondary capital, which we need."

Francisca Fabian, lending manager at the $24 million Lower East Side People's FCU, New York City

"We serve lower-income residents from New York's lower east side. What I am noticing, being in the lending area, is that more consumers are coming to the credit union for loans because banks will not work with them. But our problem is liquidity-we don't have the deposits to meet the loan demand. So we are continually looking for ways to attract deposits. We will not raise deposit rates, that is not something we think is feasible. But, we are increasing our marketing-trying to get more members, more deposits, and grow."

Armando Martinez, president of the $11-million Kingsville Community FCU, Kingsville, Texas

"Our community faces 12% unemployment-that is the biggest challenge for us and our members. The median income is $19,000, so it's a pretty depressed area. We also have a lot of payday lenders and small loan companies that hinder the general populous, which is about 75% Hispanic. We are creating a 501(c)(3) organization so we can develop an IDA. As a community development financial institution, we have also filed a CDFI grant application asking for almost a half million dollars so we can expand lending, help small businesses, and get people back to work. Without secondary capital it would be difficult to sustain operations."

Ana Maria Roig, branch manager, ACCESO, a branch of the $42-million District Government Employees CU, Washington

"Our membership area is very small, which is making it difficult for us to grow. But we have begun partnering with a number of non-profit organizations, schools, and day care centers to reach out into more communities. By tapping into these organizations, we are expanding our field of membership into Maryland, other areas of D.C., and Virginia. Being a small credit union we are challenged to have the resources to expand into a larger area. This approach is helping us do that."

Jose Colon, director of lending at the $75-million Keystone FCU, West Chester, Penn.

"We are fortunate that Chester County has not been hit hard by the recession. The mushroom-growing industry is expanding, and many of the workers are Hispanic. We are looking to open a new office just to serve them. Small business lending is increasing for us, and we recently added several loans for Hispanic small business entrepreneurs. The school teachers that we serve have been hit hard by the economy. Fortunately we are well able to serve them due to growth in other areas. We are ready to expand."

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