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MIAMI – The nature of a typical firefighter’s schedule tends to lend itself to having some extra time to launch a small business on the side. With most firefighters working three days on then having two days off, starting a business is just what some of the members of $61 million Miami Firefighters Federal Credit Union have done. The credit union recently started offering business loans through an alliance with Boca Raton, Fla.-based Biz Lending Center to try and serve these members. Over the past few years, requests for business loans had picked up considerably, said Grant Sheehan, president/CEO of MFFCU. Chartered in 1935, MFFCU serves firefighters who work for the cities of Miami, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Key Biscayne Village, Miami Beach and in Palm Beach County. “We never really had anyone to turn to that we felt comfortable working with,” Sheehan said, adding its “members (also) feel comfortable dealing with someone they can trust.” For some firefighters, a second income is often needed to offset the low wages they earn, according to PayScale Report, Inc. The average firefighter’s annual salary is about $30,000 depending on the city. Sheehan said it’s fairly common that many of its 4,800 members have some form of second income either through their own small business or working for a family member selling real estate, for example. The credit union considered a few outsourced firms before deciding to partner with Biz Lending Center, Sheehan said. The firm offers commercial term loans, equipment leases, fleet vehicle services, working capital loans and commercial loan processing. At press time, it was in the process of finalizing a partnership with $1.8 billion Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union’s CUSO, CU Business Capital, LLC to bring an extended package of services including business checking to credit unions, said Murray Halperin, vice president of sales and marketing for Biz Lending Center. “We were looking for a business that had a turnkey operation and found that with Biz Lending Center,” he said. The credit union already had some business checking accounts but Sheehan wanted to take a broad stroke approach, Halperin said. Since the alliance was announced in April, there have been “a lot of inquiries, some of them in the six-figure range,” he added. While becoming an SBA lender is not on the immediate radar, it might be considered down the road, Sheehan said. In addition to its current offerings, Halperin said Biz Lending Center can help credit unions with the process of becoming an SBA lender. Meanwhile, Sheehan said he’s optimistic about what members now have access to. “It’s going to take a little while to develop and take total command but we’re pleased with the interest we’ve received so far,” Sheehan said. [email protected]

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