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<p>WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. – There’s no grass growing under Paragon FCU President/CEO Richard Rays and Paragon FCU. The $314 million CU is in the midst of a whirlwind of change. NCUA recently gave Paragon the green light to serve 1.2 million people in six undeserved areas. Paragon FCU is located in Northern New Jersey. Four of the six approved areas are in New Jersey, with one in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Rays said the CU already had a foothold in many of these areas through past mergers with CUs in those locations, or picking up SEGs in those areas. “The reason why we selected these underserved areas is we already have a presence in the areas. We’re going to start a branching strategy on a timetable basis,” he said. The new underserved areas are just one change for the CU, which grew from $289 million at year-end 2001 to approximately $314 today. The CU was recently accepted into the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, and made a $1.3 million deposit into the FHLB. Rays said the FHLBs have some better lending deals than corporates for the kind of business Paragon does. “There are a number of advantages, better source of liquidity, better rates and terms than the corporates. For us it will be a major source of liquidity for selling our mortgage portfolio. Corporates have mostly short-term rates. We can get different terms here,” he said. Continuing its moving and shaking, Paragon FCU will be picking up a 17,000 employee SEG from Merck Employees FCU, Rahway, N.J. Merck, a mammoth pharmaceutical company, is spinning off its Medco division. Rays said since Merck has a purist mentality, the employees were informed that they would no longer be able to utilize the Merck CU – Paragon stepped in and offered CU access to the employees. Paragon has formed an agreement to put ATMs in 11 McDonalds restaurants in New Jersey. The ATMs will be no-surcharge for members, but nonmembers will pay $1.50 a transaction. Rays said to pull off deals with McDonalds, Paragon will give some money to the owners of the restaurants each month for allowing placement of the machines. Speaking of ATMs, Paragon recently joined the CO-OP Network to take advantage of its no-surcharge ATM network. If that wasn’t enough, in September the CU is scheduled to move into a $10 million, 101,000 square-foot headquarters in Montvale, N.J., which is in Northern New Jersey just miles from the New York state line and just three miles from the CU’s former headquarters. “We’ve been working on all these things for a long time. It’s just funny how they are all coming together at once,” said Rays. [email protected]</p>

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