BISMARCK, N.D. -- In an historic first, member credit unions in the now-defunct North and South Dakota Leagues convened here last week for the first annual conference of the Mid-America Credit Union Association with an expected attendance of 400.
"We're very excited about our first meeting and the things we've already been doing as a combined trade organization," said Douglas Thompson, the chairman of Mid-America and president of Aberdeen FCU in South Dakota.
Thompson, like others in leadership of the two former leagues, expressed optimism the combined group will succeed in creating a higher CU awareness across the two states as well as improved service and products for CUs.
"Let me say that our new president, Tony Richards, is a man of energy and vision and is doing things in a way much different than the two leagues we've known," said Thompson referring to the former Pittsburgh CU consultant hired for the CEO's job of the fledgling group just over a year ago.
Among his achievements has been revamping compliance, audit and legal services and that has included the hiring of a paralegal and a staffing shuffle.
"We were in a rut before Tony came," said Thompson noting Richards over the year visited scores of CUs from Sioux Falls to Rapid City bringing a number back into membership.
Said Thompson, "he's spent plenty of windshield time these many months."
Richards also helped guide the launch of a spiffy new Web site which this month features a video of Thompson urging Dakota CUs to come to Bismarck for the "inaugural Summit" as the meeting here is
On the video Thompson said he hopes 700 will take part in the annual meeting telling Credit Union Times he also has a 500 forecast but no matter "remember we're up against that CUNA conference in Las Vegas which is drawing some of our members."
CUNA's four-day America's Credit Union Conference & Expo at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas ended last Wednesday.
Even at 400, the Mid-America meeting will be doing well, said Thompson noting that no more than "100 or so ever attended any of our annual league meetings. People want to come."
Marking a departure from meetings of the two leagues, top officers of the many farm, industrial and school co-ops across the two states as well as lawmakers and the two governors have been invited to attend the three-day conference as well as special receptions and dinners to demonstrate CU solidarity with the co-op movement.
In another twist, attendees were encouraged to bring their families along. Added to the convention roster of activities is "family programming" including a morning riverboat cruise down the Missouri River, a trip to the zoo and a picnic at the Sertoma Park Carnival.