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NEW BERLIN, Wis. – Landmark Credit Union’s assets hit the milestone $1 billion mark at the end of September and it has added another $1 million as of the end of November, says Ron Kase, president. To honor the accomplishment, the credit union announced its commitment of $10 million to a new “Home Loan Payment Reduction” (HLPR) program. “We are joining with credit unions nationwide in a billion-dollar HLPR (pronounced `helper’) Program to assist lower-income borrowers to afford their first home,” said Kase. HLPR is aimed at borrowers with household incomes at or below the median in their market. Nationally, credit unions have committed $1 billion to the HLPR Program, a level expected to rise to $3 billion to $5 billion as credit union participation grows. Participation in the program appears to be just another step in a progressive agenda of services and projects that has seen Landmark grow to impressive stature. Started in February 1933 by foundry employees of the Rex Chainbelt Company, Landmark has merged, moved and, since it gained a community charter in 1985, has seen at least five other credit unions merge with it. Kase credits his active board of directors – longtime members and new young members – for the growth. In addition, he said, the management team has a lot of smart people who contribute their ideas. “Our timing in some areas was really good. We moved into new markets at the right time. Our size now allows us to offer additional services.” The HLPR program is another step in Landmark’s special assistance for first-time home buyers. Since June 1995, it has offered a program that waives all closing costs to first-time buyers. “As we grow in size, we are able to offer more assistance to our members of modest means,” Kase said. Landmark has closed $90 million in home loans to first-time buyers in the last 18 months. The credit union’s activity has included other services. In 1988, for example, it formed a separate corporation, Landmark Financial Services Inc., to provide insurance, mutual funds, tax-deferred annuities and other investment products to members. It has emphasized accessible services and opened its first in-store branch in January 2001. The credit union now has outlets in several stores and, with the growth at one, plans to move out of its first Wal-Mart location to a new nearby facility. Accessibility and its interest in promoting financial education led to the opening of an in-school branch at Waukesha North, which is now in its fourth year. That school connection led Landmark to offer an after-school class for students and adults interested in learning how to balance a checkbook and in the proper use of credit cards. In 2002, the credit union started an initiative to get more heavily involved in business accounts and business lending. “We have about $60 million in business loans and that is growing at a steady pace,” said Kase. Landmark now is looking at the fairly sizeable Hispanic population in Milwaukee, Watertown and Waukesha. Kase said a decision is expected in January on a project that could begin in spring and offer ATMs, a Web site and brochures in Spanish with multilingual member service representatives. Today Landmark Credit Union serves the employees of several companies in the Milwaukee metro area as well as anyone living or working in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Dodge, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth and Jefferson counties. -

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