PARRISH, Fla. -- When Cindy Barco comments on the "cozy" size of the new Tropicana Federal Credit Union branch, she smiles and points out the credit union's first office was about the same size, maybe 10 by 14 feet.
Barco is CEO of Tropicana FCU, which since it was founded in 1958 to serve employees of Tropicana Products has grown to $24 million in assets and almost 4,000 members.
Recently the credit union adopted a community charter that allows it to serve all of Manatee County, a fast-growing region between Sarasota and Tampa on Florida's west coast. While the area still has its share of orange groves that supply processors such as agribusiness giant Tropicana, more and more of those groves are being replaced by subdivisions and businesses.
The credit union's current challenge is to spread the word that the credit union is not just open to Tropicana employees. The new satellite, which officially opened the end of January, is TFCU's first branch and one way to deliver the message.
The location, in a small town with a heavily Hispanic population many of whom work in agriculture, reflects TFCU's roots. But it is also opening doors to new members covered by the community charter.
Liz Navarro, financial services representative stationed at the branch, notes local businesses are delighted to see a financial institution so close. While the TFCU branch doesn't provide cash, there is an ATM. Navarro can provide a new member with an instant-issue ATM card. The member can then just go to the ATM in the outside wall and obtain money.
The branch is housed in a Manatee County Rural Health Services clinic. Since they work in Manatee County, clinic staff is eligible to join the credit union and can be another outlet for spreading the word.
At this point, TFCU is settling into the new office and waiting to assess the response.
"As the community grows, we'll see if we need a bigger facility," Navarro says.
Barco notes the credit union offers a variety of programs aimed at helping people save and build a financial base.
"We specialize in [credit] score enhancement," she says. "When you open an account we talk to you about your score and how to improve it. People are very grateful.
"We also do risk-based lending. We have starter loans that let people put money into an account so the loan is actually secured. We have a special CD with a minimum of $100. A member must make a deposit once a month. People learn how to save. We have financial literacy classes." --firstname.lastname@example.org