This is part of a series of stories highlighting credit unions making small business loans in Missouri. Credit unions in each region are urged to call and email our U.S. Senators in support of S. 2231, sharing stories about the people who are helping small businesses grow, and the small business owners who benefit when they have more financial options.
St. Louis Chapter: Make Senate contacts by calling 1-877-642-4223, by using the Grassroots Action Center and/or visiting in person, highlighting the small business lending efforts of West Community Credit Union and asking for support of S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act.
West Community Credit Union was founded in 1936 by a group of Brentwood business owners to serve the financial needs of Brentwood residents. Originally called Brentwood Mutual Credit Union, West Community has grown during its 75 year history to $147 million in assets, 19,000 members and more than $115 million in loans. Now headquartered in O’Fallon, West Community has branch locations in Brentwood and Kirkwood, as well as a division called Tigers Credit Union on the campus of the University of Missouri–Columbia.
Business lending has been a part of West Community Credit Union’s operations since it began in 1936. Current lending restrictions place it close to the 12.5% cap and it is slowing down its business lending efforts – not due to lack of demand, but due to the arbitrary government limit on credit union business loans.
“This issue is critical for us and many other credit unions that are nearing the current cap, mostly because there is a real need out there that we’re being prevented from answering,” says Gary Hinrichs, CEO/President of West Community Credit Union. “Our business members deserve to be able to grow their businesses and create jobs. By raising the cap, we’ll be able to do for small businesses what banks won’t.”
Here are some of the small business owners helped by West Community Credit Union:
When Bob Becker went to his bank to ask for a reduction in his loan rate, he was turned down flat. “They had everything – all my business accounts and my personal accounts. They knew everything about my financial situation, and wouldn’t work with me on one loan.”
A few days later, a West Community Credit Union representative walked through the door of Becker Contracting Company, an interior demolition firm, asking if there was anything they could do for the 35-year member of the credit union. Becker asked for a better rate, the credit union said yes, and he promptly moved all of his accounts to the credit union that had helped him purchase his wife’s wedding ring years earlier.
“As a small business owner, every dollar counts. The credit union was willing to work with me and lower the rates of my loan, which meant more money I could put into my business,” explains Becker, who also goes by “Becker the Wrecker.”
Becker went to Washington, D.C. in February 2012 to support the member business lending legislation, and asked members of Congress for their support of small businesses like his.
“Having access to funds means I can take advantage of opportunities,” says Becker. “Without that access provided by the credit union, those opportunities would be shut off, and that means less money put back into the community.”
A longtime bank customer, Ron Parli had a $500,000 working line of credit for his payroll needs as the owner of Lexicon Construction and Commercial Flooring Incorporated. One Friday in January, 2012, his employees went to the bank to cash their payroll checks. The problem: the bank had canceled the line of credit - without notifying Parli.
Left without funding for his employees’ paychecks, Parli called West Community Credit Union on the recommendation of another business owner. He needed a line of credit to save his payroll for that week and, ultimately, to save his business overall.
Working together with Neighbors Credit Union and Arsenal Credit Union to cover Parli’s financial needs, West Community structured a line of credit to help keep the business afloat and paychecks covered.
“If payroll checks start bouncing, people start leaving. But thankfully, West Community was ready and eager to assist me,” said Parli. “If it wasn’t for their understanding and willingness to help me out, I don’t know if my company would have made it.”
St. Louis Chapter credit unions: Make contacts by phone, by email, and/or in person today, highlighting the small business lending efforts and asking for support of S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act.