Monday, December 13, 2010

Vive Les Michigan Credit Unions

Chris Guatz at the Jackson Cit-Pat brings us some surprising numbers on Michigan credit union membership, definitely worth a mention.

Membership in credit unions is growing locally and across the state as banks have suffered from the national backlash stemming from the federal bank bailout.


Statewide, credit union membership is about 4.5 million. That gives Michigan, at 44 percent, the highest percentage of membership among the 10 most populous states.

Nearly half are in a credit union? That's amazing. While the article wants focus on the angry backlash against banks, and some of that sentiment is certainly true to be sure, the numbers presented in the story really don't reflect that to be the sole reason. Gautz shows 54,000 new members since September of '09 - and out of 4.5 million total, it tells you that there were already plenty of folks who had joined a credit union before TARP and the simplistic media narrative that followed. The most important reason comes after we get the teabagger meme out of the way - don't overlook the fact that the ability to get loans from credit unions is playing a part as well. All emotional reasons aside, in the end business and consumers alike will turn to whoever will lend them the money they need.

Loans from credit unions increased by 0.7 percent, compared to an 8 percent drop in bank lending, according to the state credit union group.

In Michigan, where many businesses have spoken out about the inability to access credit from banks, credit unions showed a 23 percent increase in commercial business loans. That is three times higher than the national rate among credit unions.

“We’re working pretty hard on trying to attract members that banks probably have forgotten about,” said Steve Cobb, president and CEO of EECU in Jackson.

Credit unions are banding together to create the resources for bigger loans to busnesses - and that means jobs, jobs, jobs. Back in January, the Freep ran a story about how some businesses were struggling to meet demand, couldn't get loans to expand - and notice too that "taxes" didn't have anything to do with the problem.

Noel Cuellar runs Primera Plastics, a Zeeland-based injection molding company that makes pieces for the auto and furniture industries. His business is up, thanks partly to opportunity created because other auto suppliers failed. But he can't find banks to lend him the money to expand -- a complaint heard by small businesses across the country.

"If money wasn't an issue, I could add 30 people," he said. "How do you tactfully tell a customer 'no' and still stay in the game?"

So give a cheer to your local credit union. They have stepped up to the plate where the big boys have failed, and they certainly are playing an important part in our recovery.