JACKSON, Miss. – With shares growing an impressive 640% over the past year, HOPE Community Credit Union is the fastest growing credit union in the country, Callahan & Associates, Inc. reports. The CU has averaged 158% share growth over the past five years and much of that is attributed to "a unique but strategic expansion focusing on low-income areas in and around Jackson," according to Callahan. A year ago HOPE Community had $4.5 million in assets but as of mid-year 2005 assets totaled more than $38 million. The CU expansion plan projects it will exceed $100 million within five years. Its growth has been rapid but cautious, assuring sustainability and compliance, Callahan said. "Unplanned growth is problematic, so we are trying to be very careful about how we do it," said Richard Campbell, CFO of HOPE Community told Callahan. A $15 million tax credit was awarded to Enterprise Corporation of the Delta in mid-2003, allowing a tax incentive for businesses and individuals to invest in HOPE Community. The tax credit is through The New Markets Tax Credit program, which allows investors to receive a credit against federal income taxes for investments in entities dedicated to development in low-income communities, Callahan reported. HOPE Community also had nearly 350% loan growth last year, which allows it to loan more money than an institution of its size normally would. Callahan said since the CU's lending and spending outpaced its income, they had a loss of $81,000 in net income last year. The loss was anticipated in its growth model, and the CU plans to have a positive net income next year, according to Callahan. Here is more good news for HOPE. As the initial step in the CRA Qualified Investment Fund's $100 million Gulf Coast Redevelopment initiative, it and two banks will aid in the effort. The CRA Qualified Investment Fund (CRAIX) invests in fixed-income securities used in cities and states to finance such needed projects as affordable housing, small business loans, health care, economic development and schools. On Nov. 21, the fund announced it will invest $100,000 in the following: New Orleans-based Liberty Bank and Trust Co.; Jackson, HOPE Community Credit Union; and Southern Development Bankcorp. of Arkadelphia, Ark. HOPE Director of Development & Investor Relations Reed Branson said "Within days after disaster struck, CRAFund recognized how important it would be to re-establish financial services for Gulf Coast residents. They took the initiative to help us and the struggling people in this region by purchasing a $100,000 certificate of deposit (CD)." HOPE will use the proceeds to help provide business recovery loans, non-profit recovery loans, and consumer recovery products and services in FEMA-designated assistance areas. [email protected]

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