FORT WAYNE, Ind. (6/2/14)--An 86-year-old credit union that once served thousands of General Electric (GE) employees in Fort Wayne, Ind., will close the doors to its original branch next month.
As GE has slowly uprooted its operations from Fort Wayne, management of Midwest America CU, formerly the General Electric Employees FCU, says operating the branch is no longer feasible.
"These last three years, GE has pretty much eliminated all of their employees there," Mike Woehnker, vice president of marketing and corporate communications of the $482 million-asset credit union, told The News-Sentinel (May 30). "You've got virtually none of the employees that were originally there to serve; they no longer work in that area."
The credit union was originally established by 12 GE employees, who ran the institution out of a supply closet.
In 1969, the organization opened its first branch right across the street from GE's Fort Wayne campus. By the 1970s, the credit union was serving more than 10,000 employees from GE.
Once GE began paring down personnel at the plant, the credit union counterbalanced the losses in membership by rebranding itself as Midwest America CU and expanding its field of membership beyond the GE select employee group.
"We saw the writing on the wall," Woehnker told The News-Sentinel. "When GE kept cutting back and cutting back, we had to look at gaining other business partners."
Midwest took in employees from several local hospitals and then moved on to other large employers, which allowed it to spread out from Allen County.
But in the end, with the shuttering of the GE plant across from the member-owned institution's original location, the credit union's first branch could not be saved.
Midwest will sell the building--which like the GE plant, likely will sit abandoned--but will continue to operate a 24-hour ATM in the parking lot, perhaps as a beacon of hope that the area will someday be reinvigorated.
"We've kept thinking, 'maybe something will change,'" Woenker said. "We've held out as long as we could. But there's just no one there."