FENTON, Mo. – U.S. credit unions with a Ford Motor Co. membership begin preparing for lost loan income and mapping out assistance programs in the wake of the automaker’s plans to close 14 plants. “The Ford layoffs at Hazelwood were not exactly a surprise since closure at the plant has been rumored since 2002,” commented Rhonda Zalaudek, marketing director at the $120 million Alliance CU, headquartered in this St. Louis suburb. Still, the announcement the Ford assembly plant, which produces the Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, would be shuttered in March was a sharp jolt, said Zalaudek, whose 57-year-old father is an assembly line employee, and one of 1,400 losing their jobs. Alliance has maintained a branch across the street from the Ford plant and next door to headquarters of a UAW local since the 1970′s and so, this branch “will definitely suffer and its assets of nearly $25 million -21% of our total assets – are going to decline,” lamented Dennis Sommer, president/CEO of Alliance. It’s just “a matter of speculation how much,” added Sommer noting also that while deposits have remained steady, loans at this branch have been on a steady decline since 2002 when Ford first announced an eventual Hazelwood closing. Like other Ford-based CUs across the Midwest and South, Alliance was quick to offer loan extensions, refinance packages and financial education programs to Ford members in hopes of helping them get through the crisis without bankruptcies. “I’d say we have come forward aggressively” on that score,” said Zalaudek. At Alliance’s Hazelwood branch, “we’ve set up person-to-person counseling, inviting members to come in to the branch under an effort being spearheaded by our Hazelwood branch manager, Melinda Creer,” she said. Meanwhile, the $22 million Hapeville Auto Employees CU in Hapeville, Ga. outside of Atlanta, said it does intend to consider a merger or charter change and its board will meet on the topic in the next two weeks. The Georgia CU has 3,800 members of which 1,200 are active employees at a sprawling Ford plant in Hapeville. The Ford facility, with 2,200 employees and built in 1947, produces Mercury Sable and Ford Taurus which is being phased out in August with the plant closing slated in 2008, said Hal Allen, president/CEO of HAECU. The CU is offering skip payment plans and trying to meet with Ford members on financial workouts, said Allen. “Ford is offering some good packages to their employees, so it isn’t all bad,” he added. As for the CU’s future, “we are trying to simply decide what direction to go,” he said. In Michigan, John Hoblack president/CEO of the $64 million Automotive CU in Ypsilanti, said closure of Ford’s Wixom Assembly plant impacts about 900 of its 13,000 members, or 13%. “We are looking at a community charter,” said Hoblack, noting that 5% of its business activity is attributed to the Wixom facility with Ford announcing a layoff of 1,500 employees. He said 300-350 employees would be cut in April, with the remainder losing their jobs by August 2007. “We will make whatever resources available -loan restructuring, financial planning – to members during the transition period,” Hoblack concluded. At Alliance, Sommer said his staff met with consultants from design/build firm Clayco Corp. in the spring of 2005 to “help us update our facilities planning” “No doubt, the Ford plant closing will reduce our business at the Hazelwood branch office, worst case could be as much as 40% to 50%,” he said. -


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