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  • Success Happens Over Time

    Posted by on September 10, 2013

    For Affinity Credit Union, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa., success with Hispanic outreach and membership growth efforts did not happen overnight. The 12,000-member credit union started its outreach through a series of community sponsorships, and over the years, has grown efforts to become a full business development initiative.

    According to Affinity CEO Sandy Robinson, Affinity recognized a need for its credit union to better serve Hispanics in the local Des Moines market several years ago. In consulting regularly with Coopera, Robinson and Affinity came to understand that to be able to relate to new Hispanic members, staff needed to immerse themselves in the culture. “This is a culture where trust building is essential,” said Robinson. “Only after Hispanic community members understand you are there to help them can you begin showing them all the great things you can do to improve their lives.”

    The credit union began by forming a mostly external task force made up of employees and local small business owners to act as an advisory council to the board and the staff. “Our first attempt at the task force fell apart,” admitted Robinson, “I believe we started it too early in our Hispanic efforts, and perhaps not having a diverse enough group, was the reason our first attempt was unsuccessful. But, we regrouped and tried again. We focused first on community sponsorships, such as the annual Latino Heritage Festival and local soccer teams, and then expanded our efforts.”

    During this time, Affinity added staff, growing from two bilingual employees to five, and split its internal task force into two groups — an employee one focused on implementation, as well as a management one focused on strategy. And, the credit union implemented Coopera’s cultural immersion training program for its employees. “To best understand the Hispanic culture, we needed to become part of it,” said Robinson. “We took employees to outings at local Hispanic grocery stores and restaurants, asking them to interact with the store employees in Spanish. We also made a point to join local organizations that help further our outreach to the Hispanic community.”

    In partnership with Coopera, other efforts have included: The translation of its marketing collateral and branch signage into Spanish, a dedicated page on its website in Spanish, advertising on the local Hispanic radio station and a dedicated Spanish-language Facebook page.

    Also with Coopera’s guidance, Affinity has made a point to offer products specifically tailored to the needs of Hispanic members, including a credit builder loan program, which has resulted in a significant amount of new business for the credit union. According to Robinson, Affinity also discovered that its Hispanic members were more likely to have loans than its non-Hispanic members. “In June alone, we wrote 10 new loans and opened six new accounts for Hispanic members,” said Robinson. “Of those six new accounts, five of them were referred to us through our radio advertisements, and one was referred to us by an employer. Referrals and other word of mouth resources are the best leads for new business within the Hispanic market.”

    Since November of 2011, Robinson notes that Affinity’s Hispanic membership has grown 32 percent, and that 55.8 percent of the credit union’s Hispanic members are under the age of 40, with the average age being 36.

    Through Affinity’s growth and successes, there have been many lessons learned. According to Robinson, any credit union that may be considering a relationship with the Hispanic community should plan carefully and implement thoughtfully. “It is important to get buy-in from all levels of the credit union team — from the board and management teams to your employees,” said Robinson. “Also, lay out a detailed plan of how you will move forward with your Hispanic initiatives. Don’t be afraid to try new things in order to succeed, and if an effort doesn’t get the results you’re hoping for, try something else.

    “Success in doing business with the Hispanic community takes time,” concluded Robinson. “Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. It happens slowly and with a lot of effort on both the part of the credit union, as well as the new members you are targeting. Be patient, be genuine, and you will achieve results.”

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    Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Innovation and Welcoming Initiatives

    Posted by on August 13, 2013

    The following content was written and provided to Coopera by The Immigration Policy Center.

    In Iowa, there is no doubt that immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators play an important role. Immigrant entrepreneurs bring in additional revenue, create jobs, and contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Highly skilled immigrants are vital to the state’s innovation economy, and to the metropolitan areas within the state, helping to boost local economies. Furthermore, local government, business, and non-profit leaders recognize the importance of immigrants in their communities and support immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.

    Immigrant entrepreneurs contribute significantly to Iowa’s economy.
    From 2006 to 2010, there were 4,823 new immigrant business owners in Iowa, and in 2010, 3.1 percent of all business owners in the state were foreign-born.

    – In 2010, new immigrant business owners had total business revenue of $215.8 million, which is 2.8 percent of all business income in the state.

    Highly skilled immigrants are vital to Iowa’s innovation economy.
    In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor certified 2,089 H-1B labor certification applications in Iowa, with an average annual wage of $66,422, which is higher than Iowa’s median household income of $50,451 or per capita income of $26,110.

    – High-skilled immigrant workers contribute to the success of many Iowa-based companies and institutions with a significant presence in the state, including Aviva USA Corporation, UST Global Inc., NCS Pearson Inc., the University of Iowa, Tejase Technologies Inc. and Rockwell Collins Inc.

    – The Des Moines metropolitan area had 767 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 79.9 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations.

    – The Iowa City metropolitan area had 320 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 59.2 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in STEM occupations.

    – The Cedar Rapids metropolitan area had 252 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 80.6 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in STEM occupations.

    – An expansion of the high-skilled visa program would create an estimated 3,200 new jobs in Iowa by 2020. By 2045, this expansion would add around $1.2 billion to Gross State Product and increase personal income by more than $1 billion.

    While the numbers are compelling, they don’t tell the whole story.
    In Marshalltown and similar Iowa communities, immigrants are bringing new life to small towns that might otherwise have begun withering away. Marshalltown’s Chamber of Commerce, in particular, is actively trying to recruit additional members from immigrant-owned businesses.

    – In the southeast Iowa town of Ottumwa, Jose Rodas and Elsa Urrutea are examples of new immigrant business owners. Rodas, who originally came to Iowa to work for Cargill, recently opened his own tortilla shop. His tortilleria is one of 25 new Latino-owned businesses in the town. Urrutea, who grew up homeless in El Salvador, now owns her own bakery in Ottumwa.

    – In small towns such as Ottumwa, immigrant entrepreneurs have opened small “mom-and-pop” retail establishments, restaurants, auto repair shops, and even pupuserias (which make the Salvadoran corn-dough delicacy). Such business establishments foster local interaction and commerce, helping breathe new life into small towns that might otherwise experience decline.

    Some localities have begun recognizing and supporting immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.
    Welcoming Iowa, a project of the Iowa Immigration Education Coalition, is a “grassroots effort committed to creating a more welcoming atmosphere in Iowa’s communities by promoting mutual respect and cooperation between foreign born and U.S. born residents.”

    “The ultimate goal of Welcoming Iowa is to create an atmosphere – community by community – in which immigrants are more likely to integrate into the social fabric of their new hometowns.”

    Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration: An initiative to help guide and prepare Iowa communities and businesses as they accommodate immigrant and refugee newcomers living and working in Iowa.

    The center provides consultation for community leadership, “conducts research related to issues facing newcomers and communities, develops initiative training programs for business and industry, and educates Iowans concerning the needs, challenges and opportunities of their new immigrant neighbors, co-workers and employees.”

    The Center provides programming that “incorporates a strong appreciation for the critical role newcomers play in ensuring the long-term social and economic vitality of Iowa’s businesses and communities.”

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    Greater Iowa Names Scholarship Program for Warren Morrow

    Posted by on March 13, 2012

    By Guest Blogger Michael Adams, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Greater Iowa Credit Union

    Like everyone else who either worked with or knew Warren Morrow personally, we at Greater Iowa Credit Union were shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. The credit union industry and the Latino community lost an incredible leader, humanitarian and friend.

    As early clients of Coopera, and we worked closely with Warren and Miriam De Dios to structure and fund a Latino initiative that included policy changes, new membership procedures, educational programming, raising cultural awareness of the staff and launching products and services specifically designed to appeal to first- and second-generation Latino families and individuals. As part of that program, Greater Iowa identified funding that would be given each year to a deserving Latino high school student who was interested in going to college.

    With a vote of support from the credit union’s Corporate Giving Committee and endorsement from the board of directors, this program has been increased to three $500 scholarships that will be known in the future as the Warren Morrow Latino Educational Scholarship.

    Each year, we at Greater Iowa work with the Latino Liaison staff with the Des Moines Public Schools and the superintendent of the Crawford County Schools in Denison to identify students worthy of the honor. The winning students are invited to join us at the annual Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines to receive a check. It’s one of the most rewarding things we do each year.

    By naming this scholarship after Warren, we wanted to honor his vision and legacy. In our modest way, we will be able to share Warren’s story with future generations of students whose stories, in many ways, will resemble his—of young people who came to this country as children with a hunger for education and a compelling need to do good work.

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