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Credit union steps up to compete

Southern Oregon Federal opens Jackson County branch after Rogue Federal's announced intention to open one in Josephine County

— Mail Tribune

After Rogue Federal Credit Union announced its intentions to delve into the Josephine County market this year, Grants Pass-based Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union responded with a preemptive strike: a branch office in Medford.

"Basically that's the strategy," said Charla Zeltvay, SOFCU's president and chief executive officer for 19 years. "We're going to do what's best for our credit union.

"Rogue is coming to Josephine County, basically our own territory, and things have changed. But not to step on toes, we came to Medford because we had a lot of requests from members and businesses to come to Jackson County."

The 2,500-square-foot office at 1380 Biddle Road is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Mayor Lindsay Berryman will cut a ceremonial ribbon at 10 a.m. on Feb. 26 as a two-day open house begins.

SOFCU was chartered Nov. 16, 1953, as the Josephine County Teachers Credit Union. In 1954, SOFCU had assets of $210 and a membership of 41 people. It now has $120 million in assets, serves 17,400 members, employs 68 people and operates five branches and an administrative office.

SOFCU's assets surpassed the $100 million mark in 1998. It has $120 million in loans and $108.5 million in deposits.

comparison, Rogue Federal has 34,000 members, assets of $217.8 million, loans of $163.25 million and deposits of $194.7 million.

SOFCU first entered Jackson County in the mid-1970s when it opened a branch in Rogue River. Today, 29 percent of its members are in Jackson County.

The Biddle Road location was chosen for its visibility, but Zeltvay said buying property and building a branch is under consideration.

"This is an excellent opportunity to serve the two counties," Zeltvay said. "They complement each other and we're tickled to be there."

SOFCU's charter recently expanded to cover Coos, Douglas and Lane counties. The most likely target for further expansion would be Douglas County.

Tim Alford, president and chief executive officer of Rogue Federal, said his organization welcomes the challenge and he reaffirmed its Josephine County plans.

"When they made their charter change, Charla let me know they'd be moving in before too long," Alford said. "The more credit unions you have in any locale, the more credit union services that are available to the public.

"It's in our business plan to be in (Grants Pass) by September. We will probably lease, and we're right in the middle of our search for property."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail .

Credit union steps up to compete