A new economic analysis by the independent firm ECONorthwest discovered Northwest credit unions, as businesses, drove more than $6.8 billion dollars in economic impact, provided more than 15,000 family-wage jobs and delivered $352 million in direct benefits to their 4.9 million members in 2014.
Not-for-profit credit unions are financial cooperatives structured to put their members’ interests first, and to ensure that families and small businesses have affordable access to financial services. The ECONorthwest analysis, commissioned in 2014 by the Northwest Credit Union Association, and conducted by ECONorthwest economist Michael Wilkerson, paints a picture of the important role credit unions serve in the region:
• Members appreciate direct benefits. Credit union members received an average direct benefit of $76 per individual member in Washington while Oregon credit union members received an average direct benefit of $63 per individual member. Collectively, credit unions put $352 million into the wallets of their members. That money went right back into the economy creating a ripple effect buying power of more than $732 million.
• Credit unions provide family-wage jobs. Credit unions employed 10,415 people in Washington and 4,908 in Oregon. Every credit union job supports another 2.02 jobs for workers in other sectors, according to ECONorthwest, resulting in a total impact of 46,296 Northwest jobs.
• Credit unions are foundational to the communities they serve. In Northwest rural communities, about 617,500 consumers are members of credit unions, representing 37 percent of the rural population. Credit unions are often the only financial institutions available in many Northwest communities.
There is more to the story.
The $6.8 billion in economic impact documented by the ECONorthwest study represents the effect of having credit unions as businesses in the Oregon and Washington economies. This does not include the additional economic impact created by lending activities such as auto lending, mortgage lending and business lending.
Credit unions offer a firm financial foundation for families through accessible loans. Consider the current snapshot of Northwest credit union lending, showing that nearly 3 million credit union loans totaling almost $40 billion are helping strengthen individuals, families and small businesses.
“The ECONorthwest analysis underscores the economic impact of credit unions in Oregon and Washington. In many ways, credit unions are the communities they serve,” said Troy Stang, president and CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association. “It is the not-for-profit financial cooperative business structure that credit unions operate under that makes them unique; they deliver real, tangible value to the economy. Credit unions were created to balance the credit structure of the nation and create a stronger financial foundation for the American people,” Stang continued. “This analysis proves that credit unions are fulfilling the role for which they were created.”
In addition to the ECONorthwest analysis, a new “Community Impact Report” documents the variety of ways Oregon and Washington credit unions help to make their communities better.