Trailblazer: Fairfax County CEO Takes Fire Lessons Beyond the Flames
On a humid summer day when roofers are using blow torches to seal in black tar, at the most, a few employees working in that building may grumble about the smell or the noise.
But at the $277 million Fairfax County Federal Credit Union, the usual construction activity quickly morphed into an emergency that would put the Fairfax, Va., cooperative's disaster recovery plan to the test and endear it even more to its county workers-heavy field of membership.
“I walked up three flights of stairs to turn off the AC, which is next to my office,” Thomas said. “As I’m walking back down, I see a lot of thick smoke so I thought I’d open the windows and doors for some fresh air.”
As he entered one of the rooms, he was startled to see the roofer trying to put a fire out. Thomas said he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher to help smother the blaze, but was unable to and ran back up the stairs. Panicked, the roofer who was worried about tracking tar on the carpet, had to literally be pulled by Thomas out to the parking lot.
Meanwhile, recovering after the fire came in the middle of a record lending year for Fairfax during a time when many credit unions were grappling with tepid loan growth. Thanks to resurgence in real estate in the area, at $146 million, Fairfax's 2013 loan portfolio grew nearly 50% over 2012's figure, Thomas said.
First mortgages that were held grew more than 10% last year with Fairfax selling $4.7 million of them. The surge in real estate lending was also helped along by the credit union's conversion to a community charter nearly seven years ago. Still, county workers remain Fairfax's membership core.