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There is nothing in Mike Welch’s recent column (“CUNA’s Conference Now On Par With NAFCU’s,” Nov. 10) that suggests to me that NAFCU’s annual conference is anything but the “undisputed champion” of credit union meetings, as Mike puts it. Having gone to my share of conferences, I can understand his yearning for new and innovative approaches to conference programs. In fact, I often took the lead in pushing for them. There are, however, certain core elements to a conference that I always looked at with a discriminating eye in deciding how to spend my credit union’s money, as I think other managers and boards of directors do as well. (And this is also reflected in the current Credit Union Times’ online survey.) The expense a credit union incurs to send its staff and volunteers to industry meetings is not a trivial matter, particularly if you are traveling a long way for that event. NAFCU has always offered a wide range of break-out sessions that cover topics that have direct relevance to credit union success. If I go to a session that leads to developing a relationship with the SBA, or a delegate comes away from a session understanding for the first time some of the possibilities for biometrics, that represents a value to me. Attendance figures for NAFCU’s annual conference remain in a league of their own. The reason why NAFCU holds this event in convention centers is that there are few hotels that can supply the space for all the meeting rooms, ballrooms and exhibit hall space that NAFCU needs-we had 2,600 in Hawaii when we visited in 2000. NAFCU’s annual conference also remains the largest credit union trade show in the industry. It always stuck in my head that we put up over 200 booths each year, bringing in some 180 or more credit union vendors. When I was NAFCU chair, the NAFCU Board and its CEO personally visited each exhibitor. The feedback was both positive and constructive – when money is on the line, credit union vendors are as demanding as delegates in what they expect as a return on their investment. And the only way NAFCU’s annual conference has remained in a class by itself is through meticulous examination of all feedback. The basis for both repeating a tested formula or making significant changes in a program comes from the delegates. When evaluating the conference as to whether it met expectations or if a delegate would recommend the conference to others, the numbers consistently came in at nearly 90% favorable across the board. That same, thorough process of self-examination is used to evaluate all of NAFCU’s conferences, including its annual Congressional Caucus. While the Caucus is not as large as CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, which Mike touts in his column, it certainly is on par with that conference when it comes to giving credit union leaders a chance to meet with congressional and administration officials. I like to think that credit unions have an opportunity to attend a national meeting in Washington twice each year-in the spring they can go to GAC, and in the fall they can go to Caucus. Both have their place. I believe that NAFCU’s conferences provide a value that has yet to be challenged in this industry. If, however, you set the bar and simply walk away, someone is likely to set a new mark. But it’s been my experience that the NAFCU staff sets high goals for itself and tries to raise that bar a little higher each year. I have no doubt they will continue to do so. Jim Mills Former NAFCU Chairman Fort Wayne, Indiana

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