Piedmont Aviation CU Honors Past, Embraces Future with New Name, Brand

Some 60 years ago, the Piedmont Triad region looked a lot different than it does today. Back then, the region was a¬†manufacturing powerhouse, and Winston-Salem was one of the richest and most important cities in the Southeastern US — if not the entire country.

In 1948, Tom Davis founded Piedmont Airlines in Winston-Salem. According to the web site Jet Piedmont.com, the first flight of the airline was from Wilmington, NC to Cincinnati, with Davis the only paying passenger. Out of these modest beginnings, Piedmont grew to be an outstanding regional carrier and one of the strongest airline brands in US aviation history. People loved them because the airline was so committed to customer service.

Soon after the airline took flight, Piedmont Aviation Credit Union got off the ground. The credit union, which began in 1949 with a mere $1,000 in assets, is today a $216 million full-service financial institution serving communities located throughout various locations in NC. Like the airline that gave it life, the credit union also has a commitment to customer service — or in the familiar credit union parlance, people helping people.

Today, the credit union remains a vital part of Winston-Salem, and committed to the members it serves nationwide. But like so many other companies in the Triad region, Piedmont Airlines has long been consigned to the history books.

The airline merged with US Airways in 1989 and Winston-Salem lost its hometown air carrier in the process. It was a heartbreaking loss for this proud city – one of many economic blows it would take in the years to follow before new industries and a new economic direction emerged in the last few years.

Despite this loss, Piedmont Aviation Credit Union enjoyed steady growth in the years following the merger. But as Piedmont Airlines receded further into the history books and out of the minds of the general public, what was a proud & central part of the credit union’s legacy, expressed in its very name, started to become a hindrance to recruiting potential members to the cooperative.

So Piedmont Aviation changed its name on March 2nd to reflect the changes happening on the ground. The new name, Piedmont Advantage CU, is designed to both honor the men and women in the airline industry who helped make the credit union what it is today, while attracting new members who are not involved with the aviation industry.

As PACU President/CEO Judy Tharp put it on Tuesday in unveiling the new name and brand, “Piedmont was an airline that cared about people, and this credit union cares about people.”

When the past is filled with such an enduring legacy, it’s hard to embrace change. Kudos to the credit union then for gracefully honoring this wonderful 60-year aviation heritage, even as it boldly aims for higher altitudes in the years to come.