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WEST PALM BEACH – Interested in generating a buzz about your next grand opening? Then serve the ribbon cutting as a side dish rather than the main course. “Just cutting the ribbon is painful for all involved -it’s so boring and it doesn’t have to be,” said Greater TEXAS Federal Credit Union Marketing Director Bridget Brandt. “Make it an exciting event by figuring out what your members will enjoy and run with it.” Wanting to make a statement with the opening of its Aggieland CU branch in College Station, Brandt opted for a party feel that included such elements as live music by Southern Roots Band, kids Moonwalk and an old-fashioned popcorn machine. “It wasn’t any more complicated than coming up with ideas that everyone gets excited about- so at kids parties the Moonwalk where they can bounce around in is big over here, then we thought about what people in community love to do and that is listening to live music and doing the two-step so we got a band,” said Brandt. “We stayed focused on what our members do and enjoy and we made it happen. We gave them a party they really wanted and are still talking about.” Brandt adds that it doesn’t hurt when the facility itself is not only open and inviting but includes such features as a greeter, remote teller stations, eight drive-thru lanes, wide truck lanes and a training facility that are worth showing off. Tours were provided throughout the day and representatives were positioned at each remote teller station to help educate members on the new technology. Columbus, Ohio-based Western Credit Union Marketing Manager Kellie Digel says that memorable events don’t have to equal big bucks in spending. The $61 million credit union extended its grand opening over a week and shined the spotlight on fun activities, special offers such as a CD promotion and a grand prize drawing for a chance to win a local weekend getaway to an area state park lodge and a free gas card. As the first branch to feature remote tellers, local news stations covered the event resulting in lots of free publicity. “We were targeting young families in the area and this particular lodge is a short driving distance from the Delaware area and it fit with the image of ease and convenience we wanted to convey with the new branch,” said Digel. “We also put together a slide show of the project from groundbreaking to completion as a thank you to vendors and aired it during a private evening reception for local legislators. Members tell us how they like the look and feel of the branch, and while some days are better than others in general since the grand opening there has been a steady flow of new accounts opened.” But can an event be too successful? No such thing. When Montvale, New Jersey-based Paragon Federal Credit Union opened the doors to its state-of-the-art 100,000 square-foot headquarters -thousands showed up and the food disappeared within the first hour. Staffers were constantly replenishing with pizzas and subs provided by local businesses, but Paragon FCU Marketing Manager Mike Puzycki says everyone was thrilled with the turnout. “It was crazy in a wonderful way. We had solid traffic of a few thousand for the entire day,” said Puzycki. “Our lobby and covered atrium, which are huge were filled with people and it was a great chaos of music, activities and brand new members opening accounts nonstop. We couldn’t have asked for a better event and despite the surprising number of attendees it went exceedingly well.” In addition to a multi-media advertising blitz, Puzycki credits the crowds to a plethora of gifts, specials on deposits and loans, raffle drawings and appearances by well-known local member/ celebrities. Among the local celebrities were George Meade, Traffic & Weather Sidekick on the local WOR 710 AM morning show, and Jim Burt, former Super Bowl Star for the NY Giants. Despite having a sizeable budget the credit union still found ways to creatively save money ranging from filling a plastic pool with pennies for kids to fill their new piggy banks, to tapping a few employees to form a band and fill the atrium with music. “The completion of the building was delayed on numerous occasions so our window of time to prepare for this event was larger,” said Puzycki. “We also used the opening as an opportunity to reach out to local area businesses so a lot of the gifts were courtesy of our neighbors. It was just great to see everything come together.” The event also introduced members to the facility’s homage to one of its founders Carl Strong – a grand porch. Called Carl’s Place it resides in a covered atrium under a 40-foot high translucent, arching ceiling. The porch features a covered arbor roof, gazebo, and custom artwork in the windows depicting dcor from the 1930′s. Puzycki says members can enjoy a cup of coffee from the cafeteria while watching television and surfing the Net while the general public can host events there. [email protected]

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