Credit Union breaks ground for new branch office here

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Leaders of Ascend Federal Credit Union have broken ground for a new branch office in Lewisburg and hosted the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce's morning mixer this month.

"We are growing," said Caren Gabriel, CEO of the credit union started at Arnold Engineering Development Center near Tullahoma where headquarters are located. "Hopefully, we are doing the things that our members like."

Previously known as AEDC Federal Credit Union, the cooperative financial institution acts like a bank, but its members' deposits are called shares and depositors vote on who will serve as members of their board of directors.

The new building's design will include architectural "elements to pay tribute to our aeronautical heritage," said Gabriel, reflecting on AEDC's wind tunnel and airplane engine test cells.

The new branch office is on an out-parcel of land adjacent to Wal-Mart's Murphy USA Gas station. It will replace the office at 826 West Commerce St. where the credit union has been located since May 1993.

Construction could be completed in 6-7 months, said Russ Hatke, project developer for the architect, New Ground Resources.

The new office will have approximately 4,000 square feet, Hatke said. It will be a scaled down version of other new branch offices in Murfreesboro and those planned in Shelbyville, Columbia and the Aspen Grove part of Franklin.

Ascend Federal Credit Union has grown with mergers and as the region has added new residents.

"We have had mergers with other smaller credit unions," Gabriel said. "We merged with Industrial Credit Union for Teledyne employees."

That was in 1993, said Annett Trout, manager of the office here. Other new members joined as eligibility decisions were made to allow inclusion of employees of Lewisburg, Marshall County, hospital staffers and other health professionals employed at centers such as NHC.

Employees of Wal-Mart are the most recent group to be added, Trout said.

Historically, credit union members' children are eligible to join. Workers in other employment groups have been added to the pool, but such growth was cited in civil litigation brought by representatives of the banking industry in the 1990s.

The challenge to the Federal Credit Union Act was against the National Credit Union Association (CUNA). It was successful, however the act of Congress was amended, signed by the President, and business continued in a fashion that was consistent with CUNA's interpretation of the original act.

"The legislation made it clear that we could serve multiple groups," Gabriel said.

Ascend's groundbreaking on Wednesday last week continued on schedule despite a spring shower that kept the ceremony and coffee drinkers under a tent erected on parking lot pavement near the Wal-Mart store.