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HOUSTON – The Houston Chapter of Credit Unions was dissatisfied with its previous Web site. Not only was site maintenance costly, but also more often than not, the information posted to it was outdated. That was before chapter member Louie Perez got hold of it. Perez re-designed the site, switched Internet service providers and now manages the site himself. The changes will result in estimated annual savings of more than $2,400 for the chapter, as well as added functionality. Lynda Milton, chapter president and president/CEO of Houston Teamsters FCU, said Perez, CFO for Cameron Credit Union, initiated the Web site changes. “At one of our chapter meetings, Louie announced, `I’d like to show you all something. He had created a sample of what he thought our Web site should look like. And, it was wonderful,” Milton said. Perez, who at the time was chapter treasurer, knew what the Web site was costing. “We paid several thousand dollars for the Web design, $100 per month for hosting, $100 per hour for tasks such as adding images to the site, and they were not even posted in a timely manner,” he said. Based on Perez’ recommendation, the chapter cancelled its contract with the original host and changed to Earthlink. The new site went live January 1, and now costs the chapter only $50 per month for hosting. Perez donates his services. Perez spent a half-day organizing the new site, cutting and pasting a few things from the old site. “I put the new site together with a Microsoft Front Page template. The software does the html coding for you, and you can incorporate PowerPoint graphics, too. I can add to it from my home or office. People can email me pictures, and I can have them posted almost immediately,” Perez said. “I’m not a technical person. Anyone can do this.” “My main goal is to have the front page change constantly to keep people interested. If they stay long enough to look at the opening photo, hopefully they’ll find something else that interests them.” One look at the site shouts the fact that Houston is a busy chapter. Directly underneath the chapter mission statement, which heads the front page, is an invitation to the current month’s chapter meeting, with an online registration option. Side buttons whisk away visitors to information on the chapter’s fundraisers, legislative activities, co-op advertising efforts, small credit union assistance program, business partners, credit union-related links and the chapter’s photo gallery. Here people can also view chapter meeting plans for the entire year, sign up to become a chapter volunteer or obtain contact information for any of the chapter’s board members. Perez said he doesn’t spend a lot of time managing the site, but he may tinker with it daily, changing a font or other formatting option that bothers him. He purchased WebStat Tracking Analysis software for about $10 per month to track site traffic. Over the three-month period ending mid-May, the site received 905 hits, Perez said, including some from as far away as Japan, South Africa, and Spain. For the month of April, the site received 845 page views, with 300 of those on the photo gallery. “Yes, the pictures are the most popular part of the site. We get our most hits about a week before chapter meetings when people want to register, and then about a week after, when they want to see the pictures from the meeting,” Perez said. The chapter’s business partners have a sizeable presence on the Web site. While no fee is associated with the site listing, the 100-plus vendors each pay annual chapter dues of $100. This unique relationship eliminates the need for credit unions to pay membership dues. Perez said the relationship is mutually beneficial. Along with being listed on the Web site, business partners find value in being invited to all chapter functions. “They attend, participate, and sometimes sponsor chapter activities,” Perez said. In addition, the chapter holds an annual Business Partner Breakfast and also a fall Vendor Expo, which draws more than 300 attendees. Milton said the new site first and most importantly, facilitates communication between credit unions in the chapter. The biggest benefit, according to Milton, has been simplifying the chapter meeting registration process. The chapter also uses the site to coordinate joint meetings with nearby Gulf Coast and Sabine Chapters of Credit Unions. Neither Milton nor Perez are aware of other credit union chapters that maintain Web sites. It wouldn’t matter anyway. The Houston Chapter of Credit Unions couldn’t be more pleased. “I really have a good time doing this,” said Perez. “I’m the CFO at the credit union, so I crunch numbers all day. This is my way of doing something fun outside of my regular job.” -

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