Our Voices: Local Government FCU Helping Small Fire Departments Access Credit

Like more and more credit unions, Local Government FCU has entered the business lending arena over the past couple of years. But perhaps no other credit union has done as a great job of providing needed capital, promoting good will and improving the quality of life in small town NC as has LGFCU.

Local Government’s emphasis in business lending focuses on small fire departments across the State. These departments, which are often staffed through the generosity of volunteers, can sometimes encounter difficulty getting access to affordable capital. And since many of them operate in rural or unincorporated areas of the State where public resources are scarce to begin with, these departments may sometimes fall behind in providing modern & safe gear to the men and women who serve on these departments.

The Swannanoa VFD benefited from this lending program earlier this year, when it was able to get a loan to purchase a ladder truck. While Swannanoa has not encountered the same difficulties in accessing credit that other departments have, the loan still had a big impact. Thanks to a streamlined loan process and rock-bottom rates, the fire department was able to purchase its first ladder truck. The department has long needed a ladder truck, but it could never afford one until LGFCU stepped in with its new loan program.

Chief Anthony Penland of the Swannanoa VFD took time to chat with me late last week about the impact of both the ladder truck and the credit union on his department and the community. Kudos to LGFCU for providing communities like Swannanoa with the tools needed to keep firefighters — and the communities they serve — safe.

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Credit Unions Step in, Thaw Frozen NC Student Loan Program

(Edit 7/11 to clarify and correct: State Employees’ is the sole investor in the loan program. As part of the agreement, SECU and LGFCU members will get a reduced interest rate on NC EXTRA Education Loans. I regret the error.)

Over the last year, news about the credit crunch has largely revolved around subprime mortgages. But as banks and other institutions tighten their lending standards in order to repair their balance sheets, other facets of consumer lending have been impacted as well.

Here in NC, the loan money to help college students finance their education was threatened when the Auction Rate Securities market failed earlier this year. Since the agency that oversees many of these loans in NC uses the ARS market to access capital, students needing education loans were facing a lot of uncertainty in the upcoming school year.

Today, that uncertainty is gone thanks to State Employees’ Credit Union & Local Government Federal Credit Union. The credit unions invested $1.1 billion in the NC State Education Assistance Authority so that North Carolina students will be able to get loans at low rates.

Of course both these credit unions have been leading the pack on the credit crisis, helping thousands of NC families refinance out of abusive and potentially lethal mortgages. Even as the financial headlines darken, these credit unions are proving how powerful, positive and relevant a force the cooperative charter is.

The Raleigh News and Observer ran an article today detailing the credit union response to the loan program dilemma. You can read it by clicking here.