Some coverage in the credit union trade press of the recent decision by Comerica Bank to relocate its headquarters out of Michigan — and the MCUL Board’s decision to run radio ads critical of this move — have been curiously harsh toward Michigan credit unions and far too sympathetic toward Comerica. One columnist even labeled the MCUL “high and mighty” for criticizing the move and referred to Comerica’s decision as “smart business.”
As has been pointed out elsewhere, the MCUL is just one among many critics of the Comerica decision, others including Fifth Third Bank, Franklin Bank, Flagstar Bank, Governor Granholm, state lawmakers and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. How is it “high and mighty” to use a news story like this one to illustrate the credit union difference?
Michigan has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation. Detroit has the highest foreclosure rate of any metropolitan city. People are hurting financially and the entire state is struggling to return to its past prosperity. Michigan credit union leaders are justifiably proud of the fact that they stick with their members and communities through thick and thin. The same cannot be said of Comerica Bank.
There’s nothing wrong with Michigan credit unions and the MCUL seizing this legitimate opportunity to show how special and different credit unions are from banks.
The MCUL Annual Convention and Exposition (AC&E) returns to Motown in 2007, as the Marriot Renaissance Center in the heart of Downtown Detroit hosts Michigan’s credit union family for the first time since 2004.
As credit unions gather this month, every Michiganian is painfully aware that the first decade of the 21st Century is unlikely to be remembered as a golden era in Michigan history. We’re in the midst of a period of major economic restructuring, experiencing the birthing pains, so to speak, of a new Michigan economy destined to look very different than the one our parents and grandparents knew.
Optimism has been in limited supply recently in the Great Lakes State — but there is no reason we shouldn’t indulge in it. The creativity, vision and hard work of Michigan’s people, operating in a dynamic, free market economy, will find a way out of our present troubles. Risk-taking, entrepreneurship, diligence, ambition — these qualities have defined America as a nation and Americans as a people from our very beginnings. No where has the power of those character traits been more evident than in Michigan — and the qualities that have served us so well in the past will undoubtedly do so again.
Clearly, credit unions have a major role to play in helping bring our state back to economic prosperity. The AC&E is an ideal opportunity to re-energize and re-focus on the credit union mission — to encourage thrift and self-sufficiency; to provide our members with unmatched service; to help them build capital through healthy returns on their savings and fair rates when they borrow; to be good citizens and helpful neighbors in our respective communities; and to encourage small businesses and economic development. Credit unions can help ensure that the question of Michigan’s economic rebirth begins with a “when” — not an “if.”
In that context, it’s appropriate that Detroit, the “Renaissance City,” is the venue of the 2007 AC&E. As a native Detroiter, I’ve often felt that Michigan’s largest city is underappreciated and unfairly maligned — often by Detroiters themselves. The Art Institute, the Historical Museum, Ford Field, Comerica Park, Joe Louis Arena, the Riverfront, Belle Isle, Renaissance Center, Cobo Center and the acoustically perfect Orchestra Hall — the city has much to offer residents and visitors alike.
Also, continuing a practice that debuted in 1992, this issue of Contact Magazine also serves as a vehicle for the MCUL Annual Report, which provides a comprehensive summary of MCUL/CUcorp activities and achievements in 2006. Pages 13-24 provide compelling evidence that Michigan’s credit unions and their trade association are serving their members well in a troubled economy, and are well positioned to meet the challenges ahead.
We at Contact Magazine want to hear from you. Letters must be postmarked no later than April 20, 2007 to be considered for publication in our next (2nd Quarter 2007) issue. We reserve the right to edit all letters for brevity and clarity and require that all letters include a signature, address and telephone number. Names may be withheld from publication only by mutual agreement of the writer and publisher under extraordinary circumstances. All letters published solely represent the views of the authors and are not necessarily the views of Contact Magazine or the MCUL. Send all letters to Contact Magazine, P.O. Box 8054, Plymouth, MI 48170-8054 or fax to (734) 420-1540. Letters may also be sent via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.