Virginia, Oklahoma Leagues Eye Own 'CU Houses'
RICHMOND, Va. -- Two state credit union leagues, Oklahoma and Virginia, are now moving forward with plans to open their own "Credit Union House" patterned after CUNA's six-year-old facility in the nation's capitol.
The two leagues would be joining Missouri, which has been operating a successful and well-patronized "CU House" in Jefferson City since March 2004.
The plan to buy or erect a Richmond facility has been discussed by the Virginia League leadership since 2005 and a CU House Task Force is slated to meet at the end of this month to consider a proposal for a $1.5 million fundraising campaign to finance the project.
The Virginia plan parallels a similar $1.5 million fundraiser that has been underway for months in Oklahoma and was set to wind up Oct. 31, following formation of a limited liability company to own the structure located five blocks from the capitol building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Officials of all three leagues--Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri--maintain having a property near capitol buildings provides heightened industry visibility to lawmakers, aids advocacy and serves as a convenient site for meetings, receptions and office space for lobbyists.
Indeed, the Oklahoma League has announced that its government affairs staff, now at headquarters in Tulsa, would occupy space in CU House once it finally opens on vacant property located on Lincoln Boulevard and owned by CU One of Oklahoma.
In an e-mail sent last week to members, Lisa Finley, president/CEO of the league, said "CU House is an investment in the future of the credit union industry as a visible reminder to the State of Oklahoma that credit unions work collectively to be a viable financial service provider."
Another purpose of CU House, she wrote, is to provide a gathering place for Oklahoma CUs to hold annual meetings, planning sessions and various other functions. "It will be a centralized place where credit union professionals and volunteers from all over the state can come to network and interact with their peers and attend training and education sessions on issues relevant to the day-to-day operations of the credit union." she said. Earlier this year, the exact site, within view of the main capitol building, had been kept under wraps for fear the banking lobby might try to torpedo the project by putting up legal roadblocks. "The bankers would not like it for legislators to look out from rotunda windows and see Credit Union House," said one staffer.
In clearing regulatory hurdles, the league under SEC rules sold $2,000 LLC shares raising a minimum $1.2 million with that figure now topping $1.5 million. Construction bids are to go out within the next couple of months, said Finley.
One other hurdle is to get a rezoning request approved from the city allowing a variance for a two-story building, officials said.
Overall, CU House is a morale builder for CUs in the state and the new visibility means "we become players rather than spectators," noted a league Web site describing plans.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, Cliff DeMars, chairman of that league and of Roanoke Postal Federal Credit Union, said many on the organization's board are enthusiastic about a CU House in Richmond.
"I think this would be a great thing and would help us in supporting our legislative program in Richmond," said DeMars.
He said the business model for the Virginia CU House might follow CUNA's successful Credit Union House opened in 2001
Rick Pillow, the president/CEO of the league, said plans for a CU House have been part of the trade group's strategic planning since 2005.
"The board has put together a business plan, formed a task force and we expect to have a meeting of the Task Force just after Thanksgiving," he said adding discussion will focus on whether to go ahead to buy a building or look for an existing space.
The Missouri Credit Union Association said its CU House, located two blocks from the capitol, has been well utilized by legislators as well as CU brass that convene in the Jefferson City facility for government affairs meetings. --firstname.lastname@example.org