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Published: Friday, 7/13/2007

Credit unions in area break barrier of $3 billion in assets

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
Diana Cicerella waits with her son Sam at AP Federal Credit Union, which originated to serve workers at AP Parts Co. Diana Cicerella waits with her son Sam at AP Federal Credit Union, which originated to serve workers at AP Parts Co.
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Assets of credit unions in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan went over $3 billion for the first time at the end of this year's first quarter.

But even though assets have increased 150 percent since 1990, the number of the institutions continues to shrink, from 98 at the start of the '90s to 68 today, according to Bauerfinancial Inc., a Coral Gables, Fla., firm that monitors financial institutions.

The region now has 10 credit unions with assets of more than $100 million, compared with none 13 years ago, the new figures show.

The local credit unions have grown by absorbing other institutions, expanding their membership base, or changing their membership requirements.

Several thrived even though their namesake companies are history.

For example, AP Parts Co. was sold in 1997, and its muffler plant on Matzinger Road closed a few years later, but assets of AP Federal Credit Union grew 56 percent since then, to $36.4 million. "We now say AP stands for 'All People,'•" said Joyce Warner, manager and chief executive officer for the 51-year-old credit union, which has its main office on North Detroit Avenue. The institution, with 6,000 members, expanded its charter to include members who live, work, worship, or attend school in Lucas County.

Similarly, Champion Credit Union has more than doubled its assets, to $42.7 million, and boosted membership from 5,000 to 6,100 in the 16 years since the big Champion Spark Plug Co. plant on Upton Avenue closed. The company has three locations, including its main office on Laskey Road.

Lucas County still has the largest concentration of area credit unions - 25, with total assets of $1.3 billion on March 31.

Thirty-seven others in outlying northwest Ohio counties have assets totaling $1.2 billion, and six in southeast Michigan have assets totaling $468 million.

The biggest locally is Toledo Area Community Credit Union, in Sylvania, with assets of $361 million and more than 68,000 members. The smallest is Hicksville Antwerp Federal Credit Union, with assets of $355,000 and 218 members, mostly in Defiance and Paulding counties.

The decline in numbers of credit unions is a local, state, and national trend, largely because institutions merge to gain enough assets to afford sophisticated computer systems and to offer competitive interest rates and products.

There were about 15,000 credit unions nationally in the late 1980s, and now there are about 8,500. Ohio had more than 850 in 1990 and 444 at the end of 2006.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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