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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The reasons for a league deciding whether to lease or own its headquarters are not as clear-cut as they may seem, and it appears credit union leagues count real estate among their assets. A quick survey of credit union leagues revealed that many state trade associations own, rather than lease, office space. Surprisingly, smaller leagues tend to own their buildings, whereas the larger leagues tend to lease. For some leagues, owning a building in a hot real estate market provides sizeable assets. In Honolulu, where space is limited, the Hawaii Credit Union League’s building is worth approximately $1.5-million, according to Reed Kano, Vice President of Association Services. Kano said the league was the original developer of the building, which was constructed in 1962 and renovated in 1988. The league’s real estate holdings include the 11,150 sq ft. building, as well as the 6,228 sq ft. lot. The Hawaii league and its 15 employees occupy most of the building, although it does lease space to a league service corporation, as well as two endorsed vendors. The Florida league owns its building, in a roundabout way. According to a Mark Ivester, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, the building and its roomy three-acres is owned by the League’s for-profit service group. “The fact that the building is owned by the service group means that no dues dollars were ever used for the purchase of the land and building,” Ivester said. Although representatives of both the Idaho and Maine credit union leagues played down the scenic beauty of their surroundings, they did admit the view from office windows is “not unpleasant,” as Jon Paradise, Governmental and Public Affairs Manager for the Maine league put it. The Maine facility houses four joint owners: the league, its service corporation Synergent, league insurance trust, and corporate TriCorp FCU. The Idaho league occupies a 6,730 sq ft. building that was built in 1970 specifically for the organization and its 10 employees. According to Idaho Credit Union League Vice President Kathy Thomson, the league occupies most of the building, although it does lease space to business partner LoriMac, a mortgage company. On The Move The Colorado Credit Union League, which shares employees and offices with the Wyoming Credit Union League, owns its building, and is looking to purchase again. The 41,000 sq ft. facility provides plenty of room for its 58 employees, but for the league, the extra space is actually too much of a good thing. Lisa Fitzgerald, Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration, said, “although we can do great educational things here, and it’s good for marketing and communication, it’s challenging to do legislative and government affairs.” The VP said the league is currently in negotiations to purchase space closer to Capitol. Another league is in the market for real estate, for expansion purposes. As a result of the July vote to merge the Maryland and D.C. Leagues, the group is searching for space for a second office in downtown D.C. Pat Raymond, Vice President Governmental & Public Affairs for the Maryland League, said league employees won’t be split between the two locations, with Maryland employees in the current Columbia location, and D.C. employees in D.C. The league will combine its workforce, with employees who have business on Capitol Hill working in D.C. when needed. Additionally, the space will be used for D.C.-based training and member needs. “It will be great to have a base downtown. As close as we are in Columbia, for us to take a group of credit union folks down to the capitol from Maryland, it still takes all day once you get everyone together and battle traffic,” Raymond said. The legislative head said she is looking forward to an arrangement to work with the D.C. City Council from the new location. Largest Leagues Are Tenants It’s a commonly held belief that bigger is better in Texas, but during the past two decades, the Texas league has chosen lean and mean over real estate tycoon. The league used to own the 12-story office building it still resides in, but it sold its interests in the building when it sold of its many service corporations. “At one point the league and affiliate companies included probably 1,000 employees,” said Bob Gallman, Senior Vice President and COO, “but the league sold off its companies, and got back to focusing on the traditional services of a trade association.” About 100 employees occupy the 40,000 sq ft. space. Two other large leagues – California and New York – both lease as well. In New York, the league leases 36,000 square feet near the Albany airport, a convenient location for visitors and centralized to accommodate the region’s workforce, said Senior Vice President of Operations Ed Kovalesky. Kovalesky said the league used to own a building, but it wasn’t large enough to house the entire league and its interests. So, 10 years ago the league relocated to the current leased space, which the VP said “gives us flexibility as we go forward.” Kovalesky explained that the league occupies most of the building, and through a good relationship with the landlord, has been able to grow and maintain its infrastructure without having to relocate. Additionally, the leased address provides nice amenities for employees, including a scenic pond in front and walking paths. The California and Nevada Leagues relocated in late 1999 to its current leased location in Rancho Cucamonga, a convenient location for the group’s many guests who fly in to nearby Ontario airport. The league’s 34,718 sq ft. space houses 81 employees. Industry neighbors in the three-story building include CUNA Mutual, CU Direct Corporation, and the league’s own credit union, the California Center Credit Union. CCCU membership is open to all tenants in the building, as well as WesCorp employees. -

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