The viewpoint expressed by Claude R. Marx in the Sept. 21 issue [Marx on Capitol: “Need More Moneyball, People Power”] makes some strong points as to how credit unions might achieve their longtime goal of raising the member business lending cap. Marx is right on the money when he said that credit unions “need to step up their game.”
I agree with Coach Marx when he correctly points out that CUNA’s GAC and NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus are excellent opportunities to hike the hill and visit congressman and senators and tell them what credit unions do. Congressman need to hear the credit unions tell their stories in order for them to understand that credit unions provide financial services to help 91 million Americans every day. But a visit to Washington once or twice a year will not, cannot and has not got the job done despite years of trying. There are countless business lending success stories that exist across America. Few congressman or senators are even aware of them.
I recently visited United Federal Credit Union in Saint Joseph, Mich., and had the opportunity to be taken on a community tour of the many successful businesses that the credit union has provided loans to. These loans either provided assistance to start the business in the community or provided an opportunity for a business to grow and expand. Clearly, this credit union is very involved with their community and that commitment has contributed to their successful story. But Saint Joseph, Mich., is a long way from Washington, D.C. and we all know the old saying, out of sight out of mind.
While visits to the Hill are good, the real work needs to be done in each congressional district. The trade associations need to map out a nationwide, district by district strategy and the credit unions must commit to making that strategy work.
Many of our congressman and senators head back to the districts and states on the weekend, during holidays, and during congressional recesses. That is when credit unions need to become aggressive and relentless.
One of the greatest successes of community banks is that they spend time with their elected officials. In coffee shops, bowling alleys, golf courses, community events and even at church. These are all events credit union people are at, but the elected official doesn’t know they are there. Become aggressive, introduce yourself and do it over and over every time you see the official, to the point where they know your first name.
Even more importantly, find out where their district office is. Start setting up meetings on a Saturday at the office or for breakfast. In turn, follow up with a note or a letter. Become relentless, do it every month. Get them to your credit union. Let them see all their constituents that you help every day. Have your success stories there to meet them. And get their commitment to help you pass the MBL legislation. And do not stop if they say I will sign on. You need to push further. Credit unions need more than just support. They need action. Congressmen must talk to their leadership and demand that any stimulus or job bill that goes forward contain MBL language.
What I am suggesting is not an easy task. It will take time, effort and money. But it is the only way it will get done, one district at a time, aggressive and relentless.
As Marx would say, everyone needs to step up to the plate and do their best to win one for the Gipper.
Michael E. Fryzel