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AUBURN, Wash. – In short order, a national credit union consortium has come up with $2.1 million to finance production of a special show on financial literacy containing a positive CU message for broadcast this October on public television. The proposed “Biz Kid$” show, whose PBS producers met with leaders of CUs and the Junior Achievement organization in this Seattle suburb March 30, will cost about $2.6 million, say its backers who expect the last $600,000 installment to be raised within weeks. If the 13-episode show is a success, up to $6 million might be raised later on in an endowment to provide sustained funding in the future. The backers who make up the CU consortium, including CEOs, vendors and CU foundation brass from across the U.S., insist Biz Kid$ represents a cogent example of national branding that can reach out to young people and their families. “I can’t ever recall a credit union project like this that goes out on a national scale with such good features and brings together such partners,” said Steve Dahlstrom, president/CEO of Spokane Teachers CU, Liberty Lake, and chairman of the national Education Credit Union Council. Like other CEOs who took part in the “Credit Union PBS Summit” and who marveled at their own enthusiasm for Biz Kid$ and what it might do for the CU image, Dahlstrom said “something like this can make a difference” and should be pursued. Nonprofit Synergy Stressing Biz Kid$ is a natural for CUs, the consortium backers pointed to the common interests of the CU movement, PBS and Junior Achievement, all nonprofits. But the real movers and financial backers in Biz Kid$ include some of Washington State’s biggest CUs led by Gary Oakland, president/CEO of the $5.5 billion BECU of Seattle, whose institution pledged $250,000 in financing plus $250,000 in matching grants. “So much of the financial literacy work done by our credit union and others is piecemeal, but here is something we can all get excited about because it is national and joins credit unions with groups like Junior Achievement and PBS,” said Oakland, who like others here could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the venture. Oakland was one of nearly a dozen consortium as well as PBS and JA speakers who addressed the gathering assembled at the JA facility. The leadership of the Washington Credit Union League, which helped organize the event and whose foundation pledged $100,000, maintains Biz Kid$ should be part of a long-term effort at linking CUs with financial education in the schools through JA which reaches four million youngsters a year via its curriculum. While the $2.6 million represents production expense for the first year for Biz Kid$, the CU consortium expects to raise the additional funds to finance the show under a three-year deal with PBS producers that protects CU interests. The organizers say they hope to get returned pledges by May 13. “We know there is a need and we know that our system can get things done to address this need,” declared Bob Schumacher, chairman of the Washington Foundation, in asking for CU and vendor pledges. The CU system, he told the gathering, “can reach millions of kids with a TV show on PBS” noting the Seattle creators of Biz Kid$, a half hour program about managing money and business, also produced the popular PBS hit, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” winner of 26 Emmys. Those producers have a proven track record of taking education from PBS television and having it embraced in classrooms, said Schumacher, who also is president/CEO of Snohomish County CU in Everett. Validating the work of the producers and to prove the “real” thing, the actual statuette Emmys were used as table centerpieces in the JA Enterprise Village hall as CU guests ate their lunches and heard speeches. “Guard the doors,” joked Schumacher. “Count them before we leave.” The CU contingent later smiled as troupes of boisterous, but serious-minded fourth and fifth grade Junior Achievement students paraded through the building among the CU executives. Between breaks the CU participants took tours of the facility as the excited students showed off their business projects. RoxAnne Kruger-Monahan, senior vice president of the Washington League and chairman of the CUNA-linked State Credit Union Foundation Network, said she like other planners of the event “are very pleased at the creative energy we have seen here” with the job now on “how best to sustain the positive feedback.” Jamie Chase, director of communications for the Washington CU League and a former PBS producer, stressed that the PBS team preferred working with CUs over banks on this project “because of our enthusiasm” and commitment. Indeed, the national president/CEO of Junior Achievement Worldwide, David Chernow of Colorado Springs, told the group “our missions are closely aligned” and said later that though JA has good working relationships with big banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual, it does find common ground with CUs. “You are part of the financial education solution for young people and so are we,” said Chernow. Under the Biz Kid$ package, CUs would receive a generic 15- to 20-second message spot at the beginning and close of each broadcast, which also will have a strong CU theme about, for example, how young people can open accounts at CUs. Citing “cause-based marketing” as an underlying element in Biz Kid$, Chase told the group that in underwriting the PBS programs, the CU spot on the show “is almost exactly like a commercial – without a call to action or a price.” In other words, CUs can’t put a “call now” or “buy this product” message in local markets. PBS producers said such messaging would be a contract violation and would harm the show’s integrity. Except for the advance pledges, many of the representatives from CUs, foundations and vendors agreed they would have to get approval from their boards before making any sizable commitment to Biz Kid$. Calling Biz Kid$ ideal for his market in Southern California where JA has a sizable operation, Rudy Hanley, president/CEO of the $5.6 billion Orange County Teachers CU in Santa Ana said his CU would likely pledge a sizable sum for Biz Kid$ but wanted first to consult his board. Dahlstrom of Spokane Teachers said his CU would be “looking for ways” to make an investment stressing that while Biz Kid$ has very positive features, on a national scale there are competing financial literacy projects underway. He mentioned those developed by the Education CU Council. Don Larsen, CUNA’s secretary and president/CEO of the $12 million Community CU in Tacoma, while warmly praising the project, said there are limits to what a small CU like his can afford. “I think we’ll do $1,000 which represents about 50 cents per member,” said Larsen who nonetheless forecast Biz Kid$ would be an easy sell to the CU community. That view was echoed by Paul Regimbal, president/CEO of the $150 million Catholic CU in Yakima, which was pledging $10,000. “This is a great opportunity for a buy in,” said Regimbal. “It’s a no brainer.” -jrubens[email protected]

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