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Clackamas Federal Credit Union expands to Sandy

CEO says the move to Sandy is a sign the recession is over

Sandy soon will get its first credit union. The sixth branch of Clackamas Federal Credit Union (CFCU) will be located in a remodeled building that formerly housed Hollywood Video at 37077 Highway 26. The remodeling is set to occur over the summer, with an opening in the fall around Oct. 1.

Andrew Vahrenkamp, chief financial officer of Clackamas Federal Credit Union, says a credit union is a good alternative to a bank.

By adding a sixth branch to the more than 50-year-old company, Vahrenkamp is counting on serving some of the 40,000 people living in what he called the 'Sandy market area.'

Chief Executive Officer Diann Owen said there is much cause for optimism in the economy.

'The economic downturn has been very difficult for all of us in Clackamas County,' she said. 'But we are confident the economy is recovering, and we're excited to do more to help meet the needs of families and businesses in the Sandy community.'

Even though the country has been in a recession and people have been holding onto as much of their assets as possible and not borrowing, CFCU has thrived through that time.

'We're very well capitalized,' Vahrenkamp said, 'and we're in a strong financial position. This is a good time for us because our competitors might not be able or willing to make certain choices. That gives us a leg-up because we are financially strong and ready to grow and do more for Clackamas County.'

One of the most valuable benefits of CFCU is the fact it is member owned, said Vahrenkamp, and another is the institution is local - with all of its branches in Clackamas County.

'We are wholly owned by our members,' he said, 'and anyone who lives or works or worships or attends school in Clackamas County can be a member for life.'

Setting CFCU apart as the only financial institution completely dedicated to Clackamas County, Vahrenkamp mentioned other financial institutions that might be located or headquartered in Clackamas County but are dedicated to their stockholder owners - who could live in New York City, San Francisco or anywhere.

'Our model is that our stockholders are our customers - our members,' he said. 'The income we generate is given back to our members in the form of great rates, low fees, banking technology conveniences and dividends.'

An alternative to banks, Vahrenkamp said CFCU and all credit unions are nonprofit member-owned cooperatives.

Any profit generated, he said, is reinvested in the business and the members.

Luke McMurray, a spokesperson for the credit union, says another benefit of CFCU is its democratic structure.

'Every member has one vote,' he said, 'and any member has the opportunity to speak to our board of directors and run for office. So every member has the opportunity to set strategy or be involved in setting strategy for the organization.'

Announcing its arrival in Sandy several months in advance of the opening, Vahrenkamp said the board is trying to create some excitement for local residents who have not had a chance to join a financial cooperative that is close to home.

Vahrenkamp said he has had some Sandy customers for years, but they have had to do their financial transactions online or by mail or while traveling to or from work in the west county. Previously, the closest branch to Sandy has been in Milwaukie or Oregon City.

Vahrenkamp wants Sandy residents to know CFCU is lending money to qualified borrowers, especially small businesses.

'We've got a lot of money to lend,' he said, 'and we're hoping to find some great small businesses that we can lend to.'

He'd also like to serve local residents with savings and checking accounts - even before opening day. CFCU offers, for example, checking accounts with no fees and no minimum balance that also provide a debit card, online banking and bill paying.

Memberships can be obtained online at the CFCU website, clackamasfcu.org, McMurray said.

For more information, visit the CFCU website or call 503-656-0671.