From Airport to Internet, Lawmakers Find Credit Union Value Everywhere at National Conference

The credit union message greeted state lawmakers through various media, from ads placed at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport to lamppost banners downtown at the Convention Center.

As state lawmakers from around the United States converged on Seattle August 3-6 for their flagship annual conference, the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), everywhere they went — from the airport to downtown Seattle to the Washington State Convention Center, where the conference was held — they were greeted with a unified message: America’s credit unions create real value for the American people.

Credit union leagues from across the country, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL), CUNA Mutual Group, and Washington state credit unions joined together to create a comprehensive messaging campaign for lawmakers attending the conference.

Scott Simpson, President/CEO of the Utah Credit Union Association, who helped represent America’s Credit Unions at the event, said that the message was heard loud and clear. “Legislators resonated with credit unions’ message of delivering $7.1 billion back to our 100 million members,” he said. “One state senator even said that he believed that credit unions are destined to be the local financial services providers of the future.”

Troy Stang, President & CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), explained, “It is important that the cooperative structure of credit unions is understood by state legislators, as consumers and communities benefit when credit unions are a part of the social fabric.”

Stang launched the effort months ago in a discussion with the NWCUA team. “We’ve all been in a city when a major event is taking place and, as a consumer, you can’t miss the messaging. What if,” he proposed, “when legislators come to Seattle for NCSL, it’s impossible for them not to see the credit union message?”

Stang started making phone calls to other league presidents and national credit union leaders, and the movement rallied to the idea. “Our success in delivering a strong and influential message to these state lawmakers on behalf of more than 100 million credit union members can only be made possible by our own ability to collaborate and support one another in this effort months before the first visitors ever arrive,” Stang said.

The final campaign included ads on the luggage carousels at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ads on the walkway from the airport to the light rail that leads downtown, lamppost banners downtown at the Convention Center, embroidered insignias on the shirts worn by conference volunteers, and more. Even on laptops and smartphones, when legislators and their staff logged onto the Convention Center Wi-Fi network, it was the Northwest Credit Union Association and America’s Credit Unions who sponsored the free connection.

Senator Randi Becker posed for a photo with NWCUA staff during the conference. Many other legislators from across the nation visited the booth as well to learn more about credit unions.

According to Tracie Kenyon, Chair of AACUL and President/CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network, such messaging is critical to lay the foundations for effective advocacy.

“We’re at a time in history when regulations, legislation and the economy are all exerting undue pressure on credit unions’ ability to serve the best interests of members,” she said. “Credit unions are turning to us, their leagues, and CUNA for help in easing that burden. This means we work collaboratively and make every opportunity count. NCSL’s Legislative Summit is a great opportunity for us to go to bat for our members to advance the credit union cause.”

NCSL’s annual gathering is considered a bipartisan event, serving the interests of both Republicans and Democrats. And it is not just for networking — policy is developed at these conferences.

CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle noted the impact of state legislation and policies on a national level. “State lawmakers often move on to the federal level so being able to help them understand the impact of credit unions on a local level will help us garner their support in Congress,” said Nussle. “It’s also common for laws and policies on the state level to be a testing ground for federal policy. Having a vibrant and innovative state legislative framework helps all credit unions, regardless of charter type.”

The messages certainly resonated with conference attendees.

“From staff at the registration desk thanking us for supporting the Wi-Fi, to members of the Washington Host Committee seeking us out to thank us for our support and their ability to leverage our support, the  credit union message was on display to the over 5,400 attendees,” noted Jennifer Wagner, NWCUA Senior Vice President, Advocacy.

Added Mark Minickiello, NWCUA Vice President of Legislative Affairs, “I received many thanks from participants and volunteers for our sponsorship of the Summit Wi-Fi.  At one encounter, I heard from a very grateful Montana legislator who upon learning we were with the credit unions, gushed about the free Wi-Fi and how the credit union message was ‘drilled’ into her head.”

Minickiello said that when he was working in the America’s Credit Unions booth, many legislators from states across the nation stopped by and specifically mentioned that credit union advocates from their states had encouraged them to visit the booth to learn more about credit unions.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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