Down East Credit Union Celebrates Rebranding with Ribbon Cutting

By Lura Jackson

 

Among the many successful businesses to come out of Washington County is Down East Credit Union [DECU], which has expanded from Baileyville to eight branches across the state. One of the credit union’s newest ventures, Down East Insurance Agency, has opened in five of those branches, including most recently in Calais at the branch’s newly remodeled location. A ribbon cutting was held on December 13th to celebrate the successful rebranding of the location, during which DECU President Joe Moses shared highlights from the past few years. 

DECU had its start in 1941 in Baileyville as part of St. Croix Pulp and Paper. In fifty-five years’ time, the company had become a community-based credit union and had grown to serve all of Washington County. In 1999, Consolidated Solutions was opened, offering direct lending to consumers. Since that time, it has performed $1.1 billion in financing with a continued increase in the past 12 months by $120 million.

Of the eight branches of DECU, three are left to be rebranded and remodeled to fit with the uniform design of the company’s buildings. Two will be completed in 2018, Bangor, Machias and Belfast will be finished the following year. “From there, we’re going to continue investing in our community,” Moses shared. “Opening up more locations. Each location we open will look very similar. It’s exciting.”

In the past five years, the number of members in the credit union has grown from 15,700 to 20,200. Total assets of the credit union have increased from $98 million to $177 million. The loan portfolio has similarly increased in the past five years from $80 million to $153 million. “Of our eight communities we serve, we have funded $153 million loans. Pretty fantastic,” Moses shared.

DECU has seen dramatic growth in Calais specifically, in part because of its new location. The branch was previously located at a 750’ square foot office next to ACE Hardware; it moved in 2016 to the former Burger King building. Approximately $1 million was spent on the property itself, including $250,000 to purchase the building and $750,000 in upgrades to the interior and exterior. Loans in Calais increased in the past five years from $6.5 million to $17.2 million, with $2.5 million of that growth happening in the past year from the new location. 

Among the additional expenses that DECU has spent on its new location is a $1 million server hub that operates all eight branches. The primary server has two backup locations, one in Baileyville and one in Belfast, but the Calais branch is the central location. 

A top-of-the-line security system was recently installed at the Calais branch for another $250,000. The security system monitors all eight branches from the Calais location. “We can get a license plate from a quarter of a mile away.” The system is also capable of facial recognition, potentially identifying how much time each client spends in line. “Identity is a good thing. It’s good to know your membership,” Moses said. “Yes, we spent a lot, but we’ve got eight branches.”

The new building offers conference rooms, large offices, and a break room, all of which are amenities that employees did not have access to before. “We’re all so happy,” Moses said, describing how outdated the former facilities were. “All of our team is excited. They just love coming to work.”

While DECU continues to perform well by the numbers, Moses emphasizes that it is the connection with the community that matters most. Every month, the executives gather for round table work sessions that highlight the performance of the company as well as selected stories from team members around the eight branches, including how they have changed the lives of people who were facing financial despair. “We’ve been specifically working to reach out to people with C, D, and E credit ratings. People that have been turned down elsewhere,” Moses said. “It’s a tough world out there…we’ve got to make our communities stronger.”