With Help From Groups, Wescom, CU Set To Open

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After more than two years of planning, a new credit union is expected to open in early April 2005 in this working-class suburb of Los Angeles.

The CU, which will be known as Pacoima Economic Development Federal Credit Union, is the product of cooperation between local government officials and Pasadena, Calif.-based Wescom Credit Union.

Yesceni Ramirez, Wescom's vice president of business development and community relations, said Wescom has assisted the Valley Economic Development Center, which has been spearheading the drive to open a local credit union since 2002.

When The Credit Union Journal first reported on this story in April of 2004, NCUA was in the process of reviewing the proposed CU's business plan.

"The timing of this follow-up is perfect, because NCUA gave verbal approval in the last three weeks," said Ramirez. "We are looking at opening the credit union some time around April 1."

Ramirez said part of Wescom's commitment to getting the CU off the ground is acting as mentors. For example, Wescom's design team has been working with the Valley Economic Development Center's staff to refurbish inside and out the property where the CU will be housed. It will be placed in a former pawnshop, so there will be many changes.

"The VEDC obtained a grant for redesigning the building from Pacoima Beautiful, a non-profit organization that receives funding from the city. Pacoima Beautiful wants to improve the aesthetic look of the area and improve safety," she explained. "We are working with both Pacoima Beautiful and the VEDC. We raise questions and make suggestions about things such as ATMs, parking, where the safe would be located, office space for the manager and equipment. We have an idea of what is best, and the expertise for what is secure."

"At the same time, we are very respectful that the Valley Economic Development Corporation is the one establishing the credit union," she added.

The credit union will receive initial funding from Los Angeles County economic development sources. Wescom has offered to deposit $100,000 interest-free for three years, and will ask other CUs to do the same. "We feel pretty confident they will respond positively," said Ramirez.

Wescom also will provide assistance on the operations side by training staff and managers, assisting with the operations platform and other necessary items.

"We will guide them to whom they need to contract out to do wire transfers, check clearing, computers and other equipment. All the things a credit union needs to have ready before it opens its doors."

Ramirez credited the VEDC for all of its work during the lengthy process of obtaining a charter. She said the credit union has received support from local politicians, including Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks).

"The credit union will be able to offer an array of products and services from day one, which is unique," she said. "In year two, it will offer small business loans. The credit union will help create jobs and reinvigorate the community."

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