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FLINT, Mich. – Gary Powers has few regrets, but the one at the top of his short list is that after working at Dort FCU for 40 years – 21 of which were spent as the credit union’s president/CEO -he gave so many hours to his job and wishes he’d devoted more time to his wife of 38 years. Powers will be able to make up for lost time not spent with Mary Kay after he retires July 31 and cuts his ties with credit unions. “My wife and I fortunately have good health. At our age, you’re not sure how long that will last. I want the last phase of my life to be as fulfilling as the rest of my life has been,” says the 62-year old Powers who will be 63 by the time he retires. “My wife stood by me while I dedicated my life to my job, it was a lot of hours,” he explains. “I took work home every night for many years. If I have any regrets it would be that I didn’t give her more time.” That work also included serving on numerous NAFCU committees such as membership, regulatory, legislative and nominating. He also served on the board of the Michigan Credit Union League, was a member of the Flint Chapter Executive Committee, and was involved with various community organizations. Retirement has been on Powers’ mind for about five years, but it’s something he says he kept putting off because “I told myself I wanted to complete one more project. Finally I told myself `there will always be another project and you need to make a decision.’ So as soon as the stock market stabilized, I made the commitment to retire,” says Powers, adding he realizes retirement will be “a dramatic change” in his life because for the last 40 years, “credit unions have engulfed practically every moment of my life.” But Powers is quick to emphasize that he’s never resented the time he gave to Dort FCU and the credit union movement. “The credit union has been wonderful for me and my family,” he says. Powers and his wife have two children – a 40-year old daughter Kelly, and a 34-year old son Samuel. They also have two granddaughters. He adds though that, “Balance is very important, and I wish I’d have had more of that in my life. The only excuse I have is that my father ingrained a strong work ethic in me, I grew up with it. I’ve loved my work with the credit union movement. When you love what you do, it’s easy to get caught up in it.” Powers has been “caught up” in the credit union philosophy since he was hired as an assistant manager for Dort in 1964. He worked for the same manager (as CU presidents were known as then) Phil Richmond for 19 years, and succeeded Richmond when he died in 1986. Powers credits Richmond for “giving me the foundation to grow my success and the success of Dort. As a person, working with credit unions helped me philosophically with the issue that there’s a tremendous amount of joy in serving your fellow man. That gave me personal fulfillment and enriched my life,” says Powers. It was the lack of personal fulfillment in his professional life before he came to Dort that brought Powers to the credit union. Prior to that he worked at Household Finances Financial Training Program for nine months and found “their business culture wasn’t compatible with my ethics and values. I was only there a short while when I determined that philosophically I couldn’t make a career working in their lending environment. Even then they charged exorbitant rates. The HFC’s were the early predatory lenders,” says Powers. Powers and Dort FCU have sort of grown up together, and they’ve both witnessed Flint evolve from a once-thriving General Motors city to an economically challenged area. A native of Flint – Powers has lived in the area his entire life -the credit union’s primary sponsor was the AC Spark Plugs division of General Motors when he became president/CEO. The division’s plant is now closed, and only 3,500 of Dort’s current 45,000 members are from its original primary sponsor. “General Motors at one time had 90,000 employees in the community, but today there are only about 17,000. Because of the work environment, we can’t attract new meaningful employers. The whole community is tied to GM. We had a very close relationship with the executives of AC Spark Plugs. They attended our planning sessions on a regular basis and they forewarned us about the future of the company. That gave us the opportunity and head start to diversify,” Powers explains. In 1986, Dort FCU decided it was time to diversify its field-of-membership. Powers said the credit union “exploited” the number of select employee groups it could take in which included many small businesses with compensation bases Powers said were probably 40% the annual income of what a GM employee had. But Powers describes this period as one of greatest growth for Dort, and it was around this time that the credit union decided to convert to a community charter. He recalls one of his greatest challenges was convincing the non-GM employers in the Flint community that the credit union was not a part of the United Auto Workers and that it was a financial cooperative serving the community. By implementing an extensive consumer awareness program, Dort was able to enhance its image in the community. Powers says Dort competes with six other community credit unions in Flint and nearby cities – Financial Plus FCU, Security FCU, Michigan FCU, Genesee First FCU, Tri-Pointe Community CU, and ELGA CU. With the Flint community facing a declining population base with about 6.5% unemployment, Powers said that makes competition for membership among the community-based CUs “very strong.” “Dort has managed to remain financially strong by being very prudent in how we manage our members’ resources. For example, we’re the largest credit union in our community and try to be very careful with our operating expenses. We’re about 21% in reserves,” says Powers, adding that Dort offers the lowest rates on loans “even compared to other credit unions” and pays the highest dividends. He explains that, “One of the challenges we have in this town is that because most of us originally served General Motors-related groups, our boards of directors were predominantly GM hourly employees. With unionization you have a situation where Financial Plus employees and their membership are unionized and belong to a union that serves office workers. Security FCU has the same situation. Dort isn’t unionized, but we compete favorably with unionized credit unions in compensation packages for staff,” says Powers. He adds that Dort also competes with unionized CUs for employees. The credit union’s typical full-time, non-exempt staff person makes around $45,000 annually, says Powers. “It makes operating in this economic environment very challenging,” he says. With his retirement date just a few months away, Powers says he’s very comfortable with the shape he’s leaving Dort in. Before he leaves, he wants to see the credit union launch its commercial lending product in June. Initially that service will include making member business loans to the CU’s 400 SEGs. Later, phase two will include business savings and checking. Phase 3 will be to provide the same services to the business community at large. “I’ve always attempted to live by the golden rule – do unto others – and I’ve always strongly suggested to my management team that when they’re making a decision involving people that they take that in to consideration. They should think how they’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot,” says Powers. -

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