<p>FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Talk about taking in your surroundings. Norlarco Credit Union's new Drake branch not only incorporates local stones but embodies its members' interests. Ready to differentiate itself from other financial institutions, Norlarco CU turned to Seattle-based strategic facility planning firm Emick,Howard & Seibert, Inc. to update its image. "We noticed that everyone in the area, regardless of age seemed to be athletic," said EH&S CMC/CPMC, Principal Paul Seibert. "So we started to play with the idea of the importance of physical fitness and what marketing could connect the virtual and physical and we decided to link financial and physical fitness together." The $207 million credit union is now positioned as the credit union that helps members get financially fit throughout their lives. According to Seibert, the challenge was coming up with a design that would not only have energy and connect with all age groups but also stand the test of time. At a cost of $1.35 million, the branch mixes square and curved elements and draws the outdoors in from the sloped roof and the use of local redstone, to a fireplace and huge window areas, which bring in lots of light to the space. "The redstone on the outside of the building was quite an investment but it really ties the branch into its surroundings," said Seibert. "It is important to have a good understanding of the community and make sure the building is a clear expression of that community. We wanted the branch to have a ski lodge hospitality feel to it while using accessories that continue the credit union's theme of a strong connection to financial fitness and physical fitness." A large graphic considered an interior billboard of sorts expresses information out to the community while softening up the space. Merchandising materials highlighting images of active people are displayed on a three sided display unit made of toboggans and two mountain bikes support the check writing stands. In addition, the technology center is next to a stone fireplace and behind the greeter station is a stone wall on which an array of climbing ropes, snow shoes, and ice skates hang. "The branch feels homey yet there are remote teller systems, ATMs for after hours service and PC access," said Seibert. "Our studies find that technology should primarily be used as a way to improve member service, entertain members while on hold or waiting in line and help express a credit union's progressiveness." According to Seibert, the layout of the branch allows the staff of 11 to function more freely and serve a variety of requests. The staff has been trained to work in a team approach rather than individually servicing one type of request. For example, there is an emphasis on cross-selling and the branch manager is not separated from the members so the environment feels more sales and service-oriented. "The goals set forth by Norlarco CU helped take the concept of branding to this level," said Seibert. "Some credit unions like to just play it safe, promote an old way of doing things and just build branches but that is a waste of money. Sometimes if there is no difference in products offered the only way to grow may be by putting yourself out there-just make sure you are tapped into your community." The Drake branch will be used as a prototype for future Norlarco branches. [email protected]</p>

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