TAMPA, Fla. -- In a new twist to spreading the word about credit unions, Tampa Bay locals were recently invited to "discover the difference" at the first Credit Union Expo.
Sponsored by the Tampa Chapter of Credit Unions, the expo, though planned months before the financial crisis made headlines, was created to not only promote credit union services but also their financial stability.
According to chapter execs, the timing could not have been better considering the credit union industry has drawn national media attention from Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal, as well as cable news networks like CNN. To organizers, the expo served as a way to further capitalize on the current wave of media attention.
To promote the event, full-page ads, which appeared in major Tampa Bay area newspapers, asked: "With all the bad news about bank failures and the volatility in the stock markets, is there any good financial news?" The question was followed by an emphatic: "Yes, at your local community credit union."
Discover the difference was the theme of the Credit Union Expo, and throughout the day-long event, a few hundred people came out to see just what credit unions had to offer. The event featured booths from the participating credit unions and free seminars on such topics of interest as home and car buying, managing credit wisely and retirement planning.
Dave Andreychuk, former captain of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, opened the expo by speaking of community and teamwork as the very values that form the foundation of the credit union philosophy. Several credit union CEOs were also on hand and presented donations in support of local charities.
"That's really what we're all about," said Sharmon Goins, president of the Tampa Bay Chapter of CUs. "Credit unions simply come down to people. We're local, we live and work in the communities we serve, and we put the interests of our members first because we're accountable to them."
She added that beyond providing an alternative, consumers who never thought financial institutions actually had values also discovered credit union virtues.
"Overall, credit unions have proven to be islands of stability amid the turbulence rocking the financial marketplace today because, as a rule, credit unions avoided the risky loans and lending practices which have contributed to the current financial crisis," said Goins. "As member-owned financial institutions, credit unions put people before profit and make decisions based on what's best for the membership. People before profit. It's a difference Americans are beginning to discover."
The local credit unions supporting the Credit Union Expo included Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, GTE Federal Credit Union, Pinellas Educators Credit Union, Railroad & Industrial Federal Credit Union, San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union, Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, University of South Florida Federal Credit Union, Bay Gulf Credit Union, Florida Central Credit Union, Florida West Coast Credit Union and Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union.