Northwest Credit Unions Continue Grassroots MBL Push

Credit unions throughout the nation are teaming up for a coordinated effort to push for Senate passage of member business lending (MBL) legislation this month, and Northwest credit unions are finding creative ways to lead the charge.

After months of steady progress, the issue exploded at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) last month, during which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised that the Small Business Enhancement Act introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to raise the credit union MBL cap from 12.25 percent of assets to 27.5 would receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Udall repackaged the bill as S. 2231 so as to move it more quickly to a vote, and CUNA, in conjunction with state and regional leagues and associations, has led an all-out effort to urge legislators to pass the measure.

Mid Oregon Credit Union arrived at the CUNA GAC with letters already signed by local small-business owners, stating the benefits of economic and job growth in central Oregon and asking for support of all Oregon elected officials. The credit union has also been successful with media coverage in the Bend, Ore., area, resulting in several published articles.

Kyle Frick, vice president of marketing and community relations, has leveraged long-standing relationships with local reporters as well as with the Chamber of Commerce, on whose board he currently sits, and the Rotary Club, for whom he will serve as president in 2014. He said the credit union staff “is always at the table” for important community events and has access to elected officials as well as to their key staff members.

Having attended town halls, enlisted business owners and members to contact Congress and granted media interviews, Frick said, “At this point, we are looking for even more new ideas to help promote the legislation.”

Credit unions in and around Spokane, Wash., have worked together to rally support.

“Our press release went out this morning,” said Dan Hansen, senior communications officer for Spokane Teachers Credit Union (STCU), on Monday morning, “with support from 11 Spokane credit unions, including the five largest. Also, STCU now has petitions in branches for members to sign… one of our branches had 100 signatures by noon!”

Larry Hoff, president and CEO of Fibre Federal Credit Union, distributed a call-to-action to his entire staff, calling for “100-percent participation” in contacting legislators in support of the MBL bill. Hoff said he had already personally contacted his senators and made sure they knew where Fibre stands on the MBL issue.

Jeanne Pickens, vice president of marketing at Rogue Federal Credit Union, has been pleased—but not surprised—to hear that Rogue’s staff and members have led the charge in Oregon using VOCUS to contact Oregon’s senators.  She said that Rogue had a plan to engage at least 100 employees along with business owners and credit union members to contact Congress.

Rogue CEO Gene Pelham has granted several media interviews, including a 20-minute radio interview this week, and is scheduled to appear on local television as well.  Pickens said Pelham is able to give specific information during his interviews about the numbers of new jobs an increased MBL cap would bring to the Medford area, which is important to communicating the significance of the legislation in a way that is meaningful to the general public.

“Politics don’t resonate with a lot of people, but when you can bring it to the local level, it has meaning,” Pickens said.

She added that Pelham is encouraging members, staff and business owners to contact both Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.  Wyden is a signed co-sponsor who should be thanked and encouraged, and, Pelham points out in all interviews, Merkley has verbally committed to support the legislation but would probably appreciate citizen encouragement.

OSU Federal Credit Union even managed to secure vocal support from a local legislator. State Rep. Andy Olson sent letters to Oregon’s senators urging their support of S. 2231.

If your credit union has made outreach efforts related to member business lending, share your story with the credit union movement and inspire colleagues, fellow members and elected officials to join you. Contact Anthem editor Matt Halvorson with details.

 

Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team:

Jennifer Wagner, Vice President of Legislative Advocacy
Mark Minickiello, Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Stacy Augustine, Senior Vice President & General Counsel

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