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TAYLOR, Mich. – Even though Exchange City Credit Union opened January 6, you still won’t find it in the most comprehensive directory. That’s because ECCU serves a very exclusive membership, the businesses, government agencies and others at Exchange City outside Detroit. Again, don’t bother looking for Exchange City in a list of towns and villages. Exchange City is an educational facility aimed at introducing students in grades three through six to what it takes to operate a community. The 21,000-square-foot complex, which also includes an environmental education portion known as EarthWorks, is expected to draw students from a 60-mile radius. Thirteen school districts have already committed to the program. Youngsters at Exchange City will spend a day filling a variety of roles from mayor to florist to police officer to postman to credit union official. The fact Exchange City here will be served by a credit union rather than a bank pleases Phil Matous, president/CEO at Taylor Community Credit Union and president of the Michigan Credit Union League’s Downriver Chapter. The idea of ECCU started when Experiencia, the parent organization of other Exchange Cities throughout the United States, put on a presentation for area credit unions. Several of the credit unions decided to participate. Advantage FCU and Taylor Community CU each initially pledged $5,000 to help fund the first year of Experiencia. The Michigan Credit Union League also kicked in $10,000. Additional credit unions chipped in, hiking the total to more then $25,000, the amount needed to participate for one year. This means all the curriculum books being published will refer to credit unions and members rather than banks and customers. Matous notes before students ever set foot in Exchange City, they spend 40 hours in the classroom preparing for the day-long simulation of running a city and its businesses. Credit union staff and volunteers will help both in the classroom and on the actual day of the visit. The concepts students can be exposed to during the classroom preparation are enough to fill any teacher’s lesson plans. Just a few of the ideas include supply and demand, laws and taxes, entrepreneurship, bartering, earning and saving money and checking accounts. Students look into possible careers, apply for jobs and prepare resumes. “School districts pay $30 a child for them to attend this,” Matous explains. “You can picture it as a little city with shops, supermarkets and so on. Before they come one group knows they are going to be the president of the credit union and the board of directors. Another group will run the supermarket. A third group will run another store. “They are told they need to buy and sell among each other with Exchange City checks, which in our case will be from Exchange City Credit Union.” If this sounds like a credit union that makes commercial loans, you’re correct. The fledgling entrepreneurs will take out commercial loans from ECCU, sell items to various other businesses, then repay their loans by the end of the day. With at least 20,000 youngsters coming to Exchange City during the coming year, Matous believes ECCU will have a major impact. More information on the Exchange City idea is available at www.exchangecityusa.com. -

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