MERRILL, Wis. (6/30/14)--Park City CU, Merrill, Wis., with $144 million in assets, is using a $7,000 grant from the Wisconsin Credit Union Foundation and additional funding from Wisconsin Valley Chapter of Credit Unions to advertise and deliver the value of the credit union difference to local small businesses.
As part of what it calls the "Park City Challenge" the credit union used a REAL Solutions Initiative Grant from the foundation to open 27 new business memberships and more than $1 million in new member business loans (MBL) in a little more than three months. It used radio ads, billboards and printed materials to point to a microsite that calculates how much small businesses can save on financial services by joining a credit union.
For example, some local businesses had been paying $200 in monthly fees--around $2,400 a year--because of per-item fees that banks charge on checking.
"If you're a grocer, you're getting hit hard when you pay individually for checks over the 150 per month limit imposed by some banks," Melissa Wrycha, Park City CU vice president of sales and marketing, told the Wisconsin Credit Union League (The League June 27).
Credit unions' lower loan rates are also attractive for small business, Wrycha added. "Saving a half a percent doesn't sound like a lot on a loan, but over 10 or 15 years that could be tens of thousands of dollars," Wrycha said.
Park City CU branch managers and member service representatives have been trained to approach local businesses leaders to inform them that they can realize these types of savings by switching to a credit union. "The typical concern is things being botched up by switching financial institutions, but we assure them we're their partner so that everything clears and there are no problems," Wrycha said.
By reaching out to small businesses with which they have both personal and professional relationships, credit union staff put a personal touch into explaining how member-ownership in a financial cooperative can help small business owners as well as the community.
For example, credit union employees urge local businesses to offer a program that gives small businesses' customers extra rewards points for shopping locally using the credit union's debit cards. So far, the credit union has also sent 30 cash mobs to small businesses that benefit from a concentrated increase in local spending.
Cash mobs are pre-planned events that connect consumers with local businesses. Consumers meet at a business, check out the goods and, hopefully, make purchases.
The Credit Union National Association and credit unions are urging Congress to increase credit unions' MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. CUNA and credit unions say that increasing the cap would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in business loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers.
Wrycha urges other credit unions to apply for a REAL Solutions Initiative Grant to expand awareness about credit unions and more consumer-friendly services to new and financially underserved markets.
REAL--Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing--Solutions is a statewide initiative to help Wisconsinites build financially strong, self-supporting families and communities by offering innovative services and programs.
On a national level, REAL Solutions is the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation. REAL Solutions works through state credit union leagues to help credit unions make the difference for members, families and communities.