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AUGUSTA, Ga. – In this Southern town known for hosting golf tournaments and as the birthplace of soulster James Brown, some credit unions are merging to keep pace with competition and to stay alive. Augusta Industrial Federal Credit Union and Metro One Federal Credit Union officially completed its merger on Oct. 1 bringing to the table a new name, more branches and members belonging to 140 SEGs. The credit union’s new moniker, Augusta Metro Federal Credit Union (AMFCU), gives up some “identity” between the two but the merger was a “friendly one,” said Sherry Thomas, president/CEO. Roughly 12,000 members will be served by AMFCU with both institutions combining assets totaling $46 million. Metro’s members by far have access to more services including drive-up tellers, debit cards, children’s accounts, safety deposit boxes and Saturday hours. Thomas said only one of the six branches is scheduled to close due to the two-mile proximity of two branches. None of the 40 employees will be laid off, with Metro’s president/CEO serving as AMFCU’s senior vice president. The board’s configuration now has nine members. The move to merge started with “a casual discussion” in February when Metro’s board of directors approached Thomas about the possibility of merging. “We were both healthy, we both had similar groups that we served and we all agreed that this would be a sound move,” Thomas recalled. Over the next few months, both boards continued to meet, Michael Mercer, CEO of the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates visited to talk about the pros and cons of merging and Metro’s members voted in late September to approve the transition. By the end of the year, AMFCU will add a third ATM and plans to have home banking in the near future, Thomas said. While AMFCU’s changeover went hitch-free, another Augusta credit union recently underwent a merger fueled by the closing of a textile plant that left more than 300 employees unemployed. Augusta VAH Federal Credit Union (AVFCU) acquired King Mill Credit and Savings Association (KMCSA) in August four months after King Mill, a 100-year old textile manufacturing plant abruptly closed after its parent company, Spartan International shut down. On May 3, Spartan told employees of KMSCA they had to be off the property by the following morning, Wayne Coffin, AVFCU’s president/CEO relayed. After renting a U-Haul to move all their belongings, Coffin told KMSCA’s manager Dot Wall that he would let them use one of their terminals to continue business for its 1600 members. As a result of King Mill’s layoffs, many former KMSCA’s members had loans they couldn’t keep up on. “We were trying to say if you got a loan with us, don’t delay, get in touch with us, get the interest paid up, let’s talk,” Coffin recalled. Indeed, delinquent loans were at high levels but Coffin said AVFCU projected for the lapses in payments and adjusted accordingly. Some former KMSCA members felt a bit of relief when Cincinnati-based Standard Textile purchased King Mill in June for $4 million and re-opened the plant under Standard Textile Augusta, hiring more than 200 new and former employees. The manpower is definitely needed since the mill produces more than 70 percent of hospital blankets in the nation, according to former plant manager Franklin Rachels. The bottom line is the plant’s closing “quickened the process” of King Mill merging with another credit union. The association had already began exploring consolidation and seven other area credit unions had expressed interest. In the end, the merger increased membership to 9,000 and assets to $40 million. AVFCU will open its third branch in November and all of King Mill’s employees were kept on. Members who previously had access to savings accounts and individual retirement accounts now have an array of offers including credit cards, debit cards and certificates of deposits, Coffin said. “They were by no means a struggling credit union,” Coffin said of the defunct credit and savings association. “They were very well-capitalized given their size. We certainly felt like both credit unions had something to offer.” [email protected]>

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