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“We have a fairly blue-collar membership and many of our members own their own businesses,” said Jack Ledwidge, St. Anne’s president/CEO. “This partnership will not only help continue revitalizing the city, but there may be opportunities for our members to have access to the loans, which will bring in more industry and more jobs.” The partnership didn’t happen overnight mainly because state-chartered St. Anne’s previously did not have authorization from the Massachusetts Division of Banks to be involved in commercial lending, Ledwidge said. The process of receiving permission took the credit union and the OED submitting a justification package to the regulator, waiting nearly eight months while all documents were reviewed and finally getting word last December that the state would allow the partnership under one important condition. Any money dispersed for commercial lending by St. Anne’s would have to comply with the tenets of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Ledwidge said, which means loans dispersed must include businesses in low and moderate-income areas. Massachusetts is currently the only state that examines state-chartered credit unions for CRA compliance. While St. Anne’s has no control over how and to whom the monies will be loaned, Ledwidge said one of the credit union’s board members sits on OED and “will certainly keep abreast to make sure CRA requirements are met.” Indeed, Fall River, a city 50 miles southeast of Boston, is in the midst of a resurgence, according to OED. The $3.5 million in business loans last year brought in $13.7 million in private investments. In 2001, 47 loans were approved bringing in more than 150 new jobs. OED also provided an average of $60,000 per loan applicant with the area’s largest local manufacturer receiving $200,000. “This is the third consecutive year that we have exceeded the $10 million plateau,” said Kenneth Fiola, OED’s executive vice president. “We have been very aggressive in expanding lending capacity and our success is reflected in the number of deals we do.” OED, a private, nonprofit corporation, was established in 1978 and offers low-interest financing, tax exemptions, employee recruitment, training services and site selection assistance to startup, expanding and relocating businesses. St. Anne’s, the fourth-largest credit union in the state with $489 million in assets and 50,000 members, also has the distinction of being the largest real estate lender in Bristol County for the past five years, Ledwidge said. – [email protected]

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