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Rural Ore. Gets Financial Lifeline from Credit Union

Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union could use its new Christmas Valley branch as a blueprint for other rural branches. (Courtesy of Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union)
Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union could use its new Christmas Valley branch as a blueprint for other rural branches. (Courtesy of Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union)
November 20, 2017

CHRISTMAS VALLEY, Ore. – Last year, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon reached out to the Northwest Credit Union Association, explaining that a rural part of Lake County in southern Oregon was in need of financial services.

Now, Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union on Monday is holding the grand opening of its newest branch in Christmas Valley.

Chad Olney, president and CEO of the Klamath-based credit union, says Pacific Crest went to the area to hear some of the challenges community members were facing so that his institution could serve their needs.

"You hear stories about people who may get a paycheck and need to deposit it, but it's 60 miles to the nearest financial institution to be able to deposit those funds and needing to scrape together the gas money to be able to get there to deposit the funds just so that they have them," he relates.

An ECONorthwest report notes that credit unions have become lifelines for rural Northwest communities as large, for-profit institutions pull out of small communities. Credit unions serve more than 400,000 rural Oregonians and are present in 31 of the state's 36 counties.

Olney says the Christmas Valley branch could become the blueprint for other rural branches.

The new operation in north Lake County is small. There are two full-time employees and one part-time employee, and the branch will use video-conferencing technology to contact loan officers in the Klamath Falls headquarters 120 miles to the south.

Olney says having personnel in the office for people in the area to speak to is important.

"It's really hard to know and understand intimately the needs of the people in any given community without actually having people there to meet with them to build those relationships and to have those robust conversations that really help people to communicate what their needs are and for us to be able to meet those needs," he states.

Credit unions are not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives. About half of Oregonians are members of these institutions.


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR