Industrial Credit Union Receives $1.5m Community Development Award

The Treasury Department announced yesterday that Industrial CU of Whatcom County was awarded $1.5 million.

The Bellingham, Wash., based credit union is among 25 in the nation being awarded funding from the Community Development Financial Institutions program. This is the largest grant to a credit union in a single round.

The CDFI program was established in 1994 to promote economic development in disadvantaged communities.

Industrial will use its award to establish a small business and microenterprise loan program, according to Terri Salstrom, the credit union’s chief executive.

“Over 70 percent of our members qualify as low income,” Salstrom said. Whatcom County employment took a hit during the recession with heavy losses to manufacturing jobs. The big banks were unable to lend money and “we witnessed a lot of our members suffering.”   Currently, 8.4 percent of the county’s population is unemployed.

Working with the Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Economic Vitality and other social service partners, Industrial CU established a solid plan for member business loans. “We have the money to lend, but this award will give us the seed money to put the structure in place,” she added.

Salstrom believes the award will allow the credit union to be “a little bit more lenient” granting small business loans that will not put her members’ money at risk. The program should be fully operational by early 2012, and will loan as much as $21 million over 2.5 years.

“We plan to create 1,500 jobs for Whatcom County,” she said.

While Industrial was the only northwest credit union winning a CDFI Award, it was not alone it the venture; Washington-based CU Strategic Planning helped with the grant writing to secure the funding. This continues an impressive streak of assisting firms win CDFI funding in every round. Its tally now stands at 14 credit unions in eight states.

“The credit unions that won these awards are living best practices of people helping people to help themselves. They are building the foundation of our nation’s economic recovery,” said Chuck Cockburn, President and CEO for CU Strategic Planning.

The CDFI Fund received 393 applications in 2011, and provided over $142 million in awards to 155 organizations in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Other northwest awards went to social services agencies including Portland’s HDC Community Fund and the Network for Affordable Oregon Housing.

Both agencies focus on housing costs. Innovative Changes of Portland is receiving $290,000 to promote its economic education and credit building programs. The Washington Community Alliance for Self Help will receive $100,000 to provide financial assistance to low income entrepreneurs in the Puget Sound area. A complete list of CDIF recipients can be found here.


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Posted in Awards.