By Bryan Dahl,
MCUL Information Services Coordinator
Michigan credit unions have made great strides in the new millennium, but never lost sight of their founding principles
The first decade of the 2000s saw Michigan credit unions further distinguish themselves as leaders and innovators within the national industry. Individually they displayed a knack for creating strong growth strategies, distinctive community involvement, and clever branding and marketing ideas. As a group they stood together to promote credit unions through cooperative advertising and sent a unified message on key legislative and regulatory issues.
The result of these individual and joint efforts has been a credit union community greater than the sum of its parts; a group that strives to put itself in the best position possible to serve its collective membership. The Michigan credit union industry has not been untouched by the housing-based economic crisis that marred the final years of this already tumultuous decade; but at the same time, unprecedented auto loan growth and increases in membership and deposits revealed in the last few years that credit unions’ hard work has paid off in spades.
With the MCUL fully committed to working with Michigan credit unions on legislative, regulatory and media advocacy efforts, the industry had many great achievements in the 00s; ones that resonate beyond the state’s borders. Here is just a glimpse of some of the highlights from a decade in which Michigan credit unions strived to build important relationships with policymakers, create awareness of the credit union philosophy, and build toward a bright future – all without abandoning the concepts that have made credit unions a vital part of the financial services industry for more than 100 years.
Through the years...
January, 2003 –
PAC Fundraising Cracks $250,000
Final results from 2002 indicate that the MCUL’s federal and state political action committees (PACs) exceeded a combined total of $250,000 for the first time in their history. The landmark year for PAC fundraising would set the tone for a decade of increasingly impressive efforts on the part of chapters and individual credit unions.
September/October, 2003 – Michigan Credit Union Act Modernized
After nearly three years of intense grassroots lobbying efforts by credit unions and the MCUL, Michigan Credit Union Act modernization legislation is passed by the Michigan Legislature, winning approval by a vote of 38-0 in the Senate and 106-0 in the House. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signs the bill into law before the end of the year. A key moment came in September when the Detroit News took an editorial stand with Michigan credit unions and the MCUL to support the legislation, soon followed the Detroit Free Press and Grand Rapids Press. The modernized Michigan Credit Union Act was described as among the most progressive in the nation.
November, 2003 – Macedonia Partnership Begins
The MCUL and Michigan credit unions begin efforts to assist in modernization of the Macedonian credit union system. The partnership was facilitated by the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. The MCUL would begin a similar partnership with St. Lucia in December of 2007.
February, 2004 – Exchange City Sponsorship Increases Credit Union Exposure
The MCUL and metro Detroit credit unions begin a major sponsorship with the educational program Exchange City in Taylor that continues today, exposing thousands of young people in Michigan to credit unions from that point forward through the Exchange City Credit Union – the only financial institution represented.
June, 2004 – Michigan Credit Unions Fend off New Attacks on Tax Exemption
The Michigan Bankers Association openly declares its intent to target the credit union tax exemption at the state level in the Michigan legislature. Quoted in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, MBA Senior Vice President and Staff Counsel Don Heikkinen labels the credit union tax exemption “corporate welfare.” Strong bonds built between credit unions and lawmakers coupled with grassroots lobbying efforts pay off as the bankers’ efforts down the line are ultimately unsuccessful.
August, 2005 – Massive Cooperative Advertising Campaign Launched
Michigan credit unions launch the most expansive and ambitious cooperative advertising effort in their history. The high-quality brand image campaign ran across the state from August to October, and would continue in the coming years to become the largest, voluntarily-funded credit union cooperative advertising campaign in the country. Cooperative advertising was part of a new, three-tiered advocacy strategy unveiled by the MCUL that also included the Community Reinvestment Initiative (CRI) and legislative and regulatory advocacy.
January, 2006 – “Just File It!” Program Kicks Off
The “Just File It!” program is promoted among Michigan credit unions for the first time. “Just File It!,” a free, Web-based income tax filing service helps moderate- to low-income families and individuals claim tax credits and rebates that might otherwise go overlooked. The program is further enhanced later in the year as the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is passed into law, a measure supported by the MCUL that helps low-income, working families. Through their promotion of “Just File It!,” Michigan credit unions would assist in the return of around $15 million to Michigan taxpayers in credits and rebates over the next four years.
March, 2007 – Comerica Bank Highlights Credit Union Difference by Fleeing State
Comerica Bank announces it will move its headquarters from Detroit to Dallas, TX. Michigan credit unions cite the move as another example of the stark contrast between banks and credit unions. "It's certainly fair to ask if all these moves aren't inevitably reducing the commitment of these banks to Michigan in favor of what they perceive as the ‘high-growth markets' in other parts of the country,” said MCUL President/CEO David Adams in the March 12 Monitor. "When the going gets tough, Michigan credit unions don't retreat to more profitable markets.”
April, 2008 – Ross Named Commissioner of the Regulators Formerly Known as OFIS
Ken Ross, a former MCUL Regulatory and Legal Affairs vice president, is appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to head the state banking and insurance regulatory agency after serving as acting commissioner since October 2007 upon the resignation of Linda Watters. Previously called the Office of Financial and Insurance Services, the state regulator is renamed the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation.
December, 2008 – “Invest in America” Launched, Massive Media Coverage Follows
The “Invest in America” pilot program launches among 1,300 Midwest credit unions, with the information and marketing materials housed at a newly redesigned www.lovemycreditunion.org. Initially a partnership with GM to grow domestic auto sales and auto loans, the program goes nation-wide in early 2009 and partners with Chrysler, Sprint, Allied Moving and Storage, Inc., FTD Florists, Thor, Inc., CU Benefits Express, and CompleteTax. The news media’s response is overwhelming, with stories in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, and more throughout the coming year. More than 215,000 vehicle sales were facilitated by "Invest in America" through the end of 2009.
August, 2009 – Michigan Closes Decade as Financial Education Leader
The National Youth Involvement Board (NYIB) announces that Michigan credit unions held more financial education presentations from July, 2008 to July, 2009 than credit unions in any other state, marking an entire decade of holding the honor.