Credit unions in Washington and Oregon delivered $528 million in direct benefits to 5.5 million Northwest credit union members and drove a $7.7 billion total economic impact in 2016, according to a report released today by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA). The 2016 Credit Union Impacts report was prepared by ECONorthwest, an independent economic consulting firm.
The analysis will help elected officials and the public to understand the degree to which not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions benefit members and communities as a whole, Troy Stang, NWCUA president/CEO, told CUNA News.
“Turning facts and data into advocacy and public awareness is the new normal when it comes to advocacy, and any conversation where we can show the collective value of having credit unions in the marketplace is hard to beat,” said Stang. “This is information we’ll be bringing with us to meetings at the state capital, all the way to Washington, D.C., during our CUNA GAC visits. Credit union leaders will be able to hand-deliver data to each official from their own district.”
The analysis measured supply chain spending, wages, and direct benefits credit unions delivered to members. The $7.7 billion impact is equal to the economic impact of national brands such as Hershey and Mutual of Omaha, according to Michael Wilkerson, senior economist for ECONorthwest.
Wilkerson said ECONorthwest received detailed information for more than 500 credit union branches in the Northwest, and the report also uses data from CUNA’s Project ZIP Code and the NCUA’s 4th-quarter call reports. Credit union members are 50% of the population of Washington and 49% of the population of Oregon, totaling more than 5.55 million members in those two states.
But more than just following the savings realized directly by credit union members, the study tracks the flow of money through the credit unions, to their members and into the economy at large.
“These economic benefits aren’t only going directly to members, the ripple effect spreads out across these communities. If a member saves money through a more affordable product, that’s money that gets spent in the local grocery store or hardware store,” Stang said. “By employing more than 17,000 people, those credit unions also support jobs that come along with the buildings they inhabit, the businesses they serve and the partners in the community they work with. Job creation is a pillar of any conversation about economic growth.”
The data in the report is broken down to city, county, congressional district and even individual credit union level, meaning credit union advocates have precise data on the credit union economic impact to present to policymakers at every level, from a city council to the U.S. Congress.
“Notice we’re not bragging about our balance sheet, or our assets or size of the cooperative, but the value generated and delivered to consumers by financial cooperatives,” Stang said. “The credit union system was created to deliver value to consumers and communities, and when you can see the exact data on that value, it makes it easier for officials to support policies that support financial cooperatives.”
The report also found that credit union membership growth in Washington and Oregon is outpacing population growth. The number of Washington and Oregon credit union members grew by 13% since 2014, while the populations of those states grew by 2.7% over the same time period.