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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Camellia State was recently ranked by an economic and business expert as being one of the top five states in the U.S. for small businesses, and the Alabama Credit Union League wants to be there to leverage that reputation and provide small businesses with the products and services they need to run effectively and succeed. The League’s Board of Directors last month approved a plan for the Alabama Credit Union League to form a CUSO called Credit Union Business Services, LLC to, among other things, “help credit unions strengthen existing financial relationships with members who own or are employed by small business through the delivery of convenient, high touch, competitively priced small business services.” The CUSO is actually the result of research conducted and collected by a task force comprised of about nine Alabama credit unions that looked into small business services opportunities for credit unions. The group presented their findings to the league at its annual board planning session held earlier this month in Gulf Shores, and it was at that meeting that the board gave its nod of approval for the CUSO. Credit Union Business Services will be headed up by Mark Cooper, who served as the executive director/CEO of the National Association of Retired Credit Union People (NARCUP), an affiliate of CUNA, from 1982-1988. Most recently, Cooper worked as senior vice president at one of Alabama’s largest banks where he was responsible for rebuilding the bank’s small business group banking program and creating marketing and program material for targeted markets. Cooper said the CUSO wants to look at the whole package of small business services. Small businesses, he said, account for a major source of revenue for financials – more than 60% of deposits, 15-20% of loans; and the balance is derived from fee income. “Our intention is for credit unions to be the conduit to small businesses for the products and services we plan to offer them ,” said Cooper. “The average small business has 10 employees. That’s a great opportunity for credit unions.” That includes things like lending, business checking direct deposit, payroll preparation, workmen’s compensation, and health and other types of insurance. “We want to provide small businesses with whatever is vital to them to be able to grow and prosper. We’re looking beyond just lending and deposit. If a small business has a compliance or regulatory question, we want them to be able to come to us for an answer,” he said. To help facilitate that, Credit Union Business Services plans to form a Professional Employment Association that will be owned by the CUSO. “Small business owners have so much to take care of and worry about. By becoming part of our PEA, we can take some of those headaches away, streamline their business, and free them up to do what they need to do to prosper,” Cooper said. While Credit Union Business Services plans to have some assistance available by the end of 2003, Cooper said the League expects to roll the CUSO out in early 2004. Credit unions interested in being owners of the CUSO will be allowed to make a minimum investment of $50,000 and a maximum investment of $300,000. Moore said the Alabama Credit Union League had already received verbal commitments of “substantial investments” from several credit unions. There are 177 credit unions in Alabama, and the majority of them are affiliated with the League. -

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