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PARMA, Ohio – PSE Credit Union Inc., chartered in 1955 to serve teachers in school employees in the city, is hoping to be the first credit union to win a community charter for all of Cuyahoga County, the 1.4 million-population county at the core of metropolitan Cleveland. And not everyone is happy with that, including some CUs. PSE has 150 SEGs, including a number of school and several hospitals. It has five offices including three on the campuses of Cuyahoga Community College. Its original employee group was school employees in Parma, a suburb southwest of Cleveland. PSE is privately insured and has 23,700 members and $85 million in assets. Jan Thomas, president of PSE, said a community charter became attractive as the size of its loan portfolio shrank as a percentage of its assets. Marketing to such a narrow base as employee groups, boosting loan volume proved difficult. “It is harder to market to (employee) groups than to a geographic area,” she said. All the credit union can do is “send a mailer or get into company newsletters.” If its charter change is approved, Thomas said she would consider using advertising on billboards and in weekly newspapers. Ohio Department of Commerce spokesman Dennis Ginty said the department could not discuss details of PSE’s request for a charter change. Of the 107 applications for charter expansions requested last year, the department approved 96. Nine are still pending. The volume is so heavy, said Carol Frazier, marketing manager of Buckeye State Credit Union in Akron, described the situation as “like a stampede, a gold rush.” Buckeye State, a credit union with 22,000 members and $63 million in assets, applied for a community charter last November and was told not to expect a decision until July. Buckeye State is seeking to add all of Stark County to its field of membership. This sort of growth, naturally, has not gone unnoticed by bankers, who generally oppose community charter expansions. “The problem that I have with (community-based) credit unions, is that they don’t pay state and federal taxes,” said Stephen Hailer, president and CEO of North Akron Savings Bank. “I don’t have any problem with them as long as they stay a traditional credit union.” Thomas shrugs off that criticism, as well as the objections from other credit unions. “I know there are going to be credit unions that aren’t happy with what we’re doing,” she said, but she feels confident of the success of the application. Joseph Crawfis, president of Community United Credit Union, which holds a charter to serve Strongsville, south of PSE’s Parma base, said, “I don’t see how they can expect to serve people in Cleveland or the eastern suburbs.” Rita Haynes, president of Faith United Community Credit Union, said she is considering a formal objection. But Thomas believes her credit union can handle the whole county because of its three community-college branches that are near downtown, in the eastern suburb of Highland Hills and in Parma Heights in the western suburbs. -

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