Breaking ground

Published 9:25 am Monday, August 3, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Though many financial institutions may have found themselves sailing rough waters as of late, it make be a comfort to some to hear of growth and even expansion.

Such is the case with Berrien Teacher’s Credit Union (BTCU), which has been serving its Niles area members for 75 years and will mark that anniversary with steps toward a new facility and a new chapter in its history.

BTCU plans to build its new facility in what will be Niles Township’s latest area of development, just off of South 11th Street across from Wal-Mart a “stone’s throw” away from its direct competitor – United Federal Credit Union.

“We know that the Niles market has a lot of potential,” said President and CEO Scott McFarland. “We’ve been in it for some time.”

The expansion, McFarland said is a “great opportunity” for the credit union which has seen its membership grow in the wake of a tough economy.

BTCU’s current location, on the south end of South 11th Street, McFarland explained has limited the company’s abilities to serve its members.

The new facility will mean an increase in space, by nearly 800 square feet, from 2,200 to 3,000 square feet, two drive up teller windows as opposed to its current singular drive up location and an ATM on the property, which will be located off the new service drive that visitors will be able to turn onto from the main road, and a standalone ATM located off the service drive itself.

As for one of its competitors being their next door neighbor, United Federal Credit Union broke ground on its construction not long ago, “it shows that credit unions are vibrant and growing,” McFarland said. And he’s not worried about proximity.

“If we’re not taking care of our own members and someone can do it better,” he said,  “shame on us. I think it’s our job to take care of our members and our goal is not to take other credit union members away from other people.”

The new facility will be another way the credit union hopes to take care of its growing membership. BTCU already offers online banking services as well as online help and information regarding investments, loans and credit card/debit card services.

Some reports have looked at the public’s opinion of banking services after so many financial institutions found themselves in need of government help over the last year.

McFarland, who said he in no way knocked the integrity of banking institutions, simply said that “we have seen that in our growth numbers,” many people have been putting their money into credit unions. BTCU doubled its goals for the year.

“I think the benefit of the credit union has always been there,” he said. The misconception, he added, was that to join the credit union, one needed to know a member -that is actually not necessary. Anyone living in the area, worshipping in the area, working or going to school here can join, he said. And for those who are either just discovering the services offered through a credit union or who continue to look to them for financial peace of mind, said McFarland, “we have a great team.”

“The people that work here are committed to the members.”

The new facility he said, will show “our commitment to the community.”

Designs are currently being worked on for the new facility and McFarland said the goal was to begin digging sometime in October or November with an estimated completion date of April or May of next year.