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SPOKANE, Wash. – January was a month of notable firsts for Numerica Credit Union. Becoming an authorized SBA 7(a) lender was just one of the credit union’s achievements. Numerica CU has been involved with commercial real estate lending on a limited basis since 1988. VP of Lending Gene Fitzpatrick explained that the credit union hasn’t marketed the service to members, but if a member talked to a Numerica CU service rep about refinancing their commercial real estate loan and inquired if the credit union offered the service, they were directed to a loan officer. “It hasn’t been a focus for Numerica Credit Union, but over time we’ve built up the service to where we have a $17 million commercial real estate portfolio,” said Fitzpatrick. Numerica’s total loan portfolio is $261 million, and it’s primarily made up of auto and home equity loans and mortgages. Although business loans account for a relatively small percentage of Numerica’s total loan business, Fitzgerald said the credit union realized that business lending is a direction credit unions are increasingly moving in. “SBA lending was a safe way to get started. Even if we don’t offer SBA 7(a) loans right away, it was important for us to find out what was needed to get involved and to apply,” he said. Fitzgerald admitted the prospect of applying to be an SBA 7(a) Participating Lender was a bit intimidating at first. “Our initial reaction was there was a ton of stuff we had to complete and it would take awhile for us to pull everything together,” he said. The SBA has an office in Spokane that covers Eastern Washington State and Northern Idaho, and that gave Numerica easy access to assistance and answers to questions it had during the application process. Although there was a lot of documentation that had to be collected, in the end Fitzgerald said he was surprised at how fast the application and approval process. The credit union began pulling the required paperwork together in September; in the credit union board’s October meeting, directors discussed the SBA program and accepted the resolution; in November, Numerica sent the resolution and necessary documentation to the district SBA office; in December, the credit union’s application was approved by the district office and was sent to the SBA’s office in Washington, D.C.; Numerica received notification in mid-January that it had been approved by SBA to be a 7(a) Participating Lender. “This is a terrific opportunity for Numerica and for the region,” said Fitzgerald. Numerica, with $337 million in assets, is the tenth largest state-chartered credit union in Washington State and the second largest CU in the region. It has about 43,000 members, and its field-of-membership includes 20 counties in Eastern Washington State and 10 counties in Northern Idaho. Fitzgerald is excited about Numerica’s new business lending authority, but he said the credit union is going to take its time setting up things internally such as general ledgers and applications to handle SBA 7(a) loans before it actually begins offering them. The credit union completed the required training session with the local SBA district office on Feb. 5. Numerica plans to begin taking applications for SBA 7(a) loans starting the third quarter 2003. “You have to take your time and get things set up right. You have to know the product line and be familiar with the SBA’s 7(a) loan eligibility requirements and guidelines. If you don’t you wind up wasting everyone’s time,” said Fitzgerald. Once Numerica begins offering the loans, it hopes to get assistance from the Northwest Business Development Association, a certified development corporation that has an office in the city. The association has a program that provides information to people in the community who operate a small business or who want to open one. Because of Numerica’s relationship with Northwest Business Development, Fitzgerald said the association will probably refer residents in the area who need funding to the credit union for a 7(a) loan. Numerica will reciprocate and advise members who apply for 7(a) loans with the credit unions, to contact the association for small business development information. Fitzgerald stressed that becoming an SBA 7(a) Participating Lender is just the first step in the credit union being able to offer small businesses the services it wants to provide. “We still need to get the business deposit and technical side of the credit union up to speed. Now we don’t offer business deposit accounts on a regular basis. We have to set up a formal line of accounting and be able to offer things like sweep accounts and merchant bank cards. The loan side of the business is easy, but the deposit side is a daily thing. We have to take the time to get this set up,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re now at the size and have the field-of-membership where we can offer these types of services, but we want to make sure we do it right,” he said. Earlier in the month, on Jan. 17, the credit union became the first CU in Eastern Washington State to join with CU Business Group, an affiliate of Northwest Corporate Credit Union, Portland, Ore.. Started in 2001, CU Business Group offers business support services in deposits and lending, including business loan underwriting assistance and loan monitoring, and assisting credit unions with setting up product lines for business checking accounts. CU Business Group will offer assistance to Numerica in these areas. In January the credit union also joined the Northwest Business Development Association, based in Spokane. NBDA is a certified development company focused on fostering economic development development and creating jobs by offering SBA financing to credit union members on a direct and indirect basis. Numerica is also participating in a low-income housing project being offered through the Federal Home Loan Bank, Washington State, the City of Spokane, and private financing. Through its partnership, Numerica provided a reduced rate to the borrowers on a $1.3 million mortgage loan in a $7.4 million project that will rehabilitate housing to provide 123 unites in a low-income housing project. Numerica is the first credit union to participate in this type of project. -

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