In 1979 General Motors (GM) was the largest private employer in the country, with domestic employment peaking at a whopping 618,365. Worldwide, GM employed nearly 900,000 people. That same year, I started work as the new Treasurer for a 12,000 member, $28.9 million credit union in Winston-Salem called McLean Employees’ Credit Union.
This was a tough year for America, and it was not getting much better. Runaway inflation, recession, and a devastating oil embargo created a toxic economic environment for both businesses and consumers. GM car and truck sales plummeted 26%, causing the company to lose over $750 million in 1980. McLean Trucking Company was struggling with dramatically increasing operation costs and decreased demand for services. Although McLean Credit Union did its part to help both companies by giving Mr. John A. Clayton, Jr. a 1980 Chevrolet Chevette as part of a “Savings Express” contest the following year, it was becoming clear that the GM, McLean, and its credit union would require significant changes to stay afloat.
As I read about the GM bankruptcy in the news I can’t help but to think back to 1986 when McLean folded. Our members and employees were justifiably panicked, but we did everything we could to ease their transition to life after McLean Trucking Company. Thankfully, our credit union’s leadership had enough foresight to plan for this possibility, and started recruiting additional employer groups. Without increasing our membership base, our credit union very well may have collapsed with the McLean Trucking Company bankruptcy. Without this action, there is little chance that we would have had the resources to help the thousands of displaced truckers and support staff that we did.
Today, Members Credit Union is 51,000 members strong with assets topping $225 million. Our name is different, while our mission lives on. We have never been more dedicated to the credit union philosophy of people helping people. On July 1, we expanded our charter to serve anyone who lives, works, worships, or goes to school in Surry, Wilkes, or Yadkin county through a merger with Chatham Employees’ Credit Association in Elkin. This growth opens our doors to many more potential members and, more importantly, allows us to improve service offerings to all existing members. The opening of our Elkin office on July 1, our twentieth branch, is a perfect case in point.
I am optimistic that GM will do what McLean Employees’ Credit Union did, and make the appropriate, though painful, decisions needed to survive. If so, they may very well emerge leaner and more effective than ever. Their only chance at survival, however, is if consumers give buying American automobiles another chance. The federal government plans to back any GM warranty for vehicles purchased during the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy restructuring should the company go out of business, giving you some much-needed peace of mind. On top of that, there has never been a better time to find amazing deals on new or used American automobiles. Our credit union’s Invest in America program gives members huge discounts on Chrysler and GM vehicles.
If you are ready to buy a new vehicle, we can help. If you have an existing loan with another financial institution, we can help you with that as well. If you are looking for great rates on deposits, we can definitely help. If you have allowed us to serve you during this recession, or any other time in our 56 year history, thank you for allowing us to survive, thrive, and spread the powerful and distinct credit union difference.