Organizers pursue new Minneapolis credit union charter

A group of community leaders are in dialogue with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the National Credit Union Administration to open a community credit union in North Minneapolis. The effort is being led by the Association for Black Economic Power under the leadership of Debra Hurston. The ABEP is a nonprofit organization founded in 2017 to support North Minneapolis residents and businesses. 

Organizers submitted a charter application Oct. 31. “We have the organizing group, we have received the regulators’ first review and we are addressing those concerns,” Hurston said in a February podcast. “We are in the process of dotting some i’s and crossing some t’s that the regulators would like us to take care of.”

ABEP has been working with the Minnesota Credit Union Network to charter the credit union, which will be called Arise Community Credit Union. The ABEP website explains that the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation has raised $1,083,600 toward the new institution’s capital. 

Hurston said individuals have made pledges to deposit more than $2 million in the credit union, while MnCUN said its members have pledged another $4 million in deposits.

Hurston called the lengthy process of completing the application for the state-chartered credit union “humbling,” but said with the help of MnCUN, the outcome was successful. “They called our application ‘exemplary,’” Hurston commented. 

Founders are calling Arise Community Credit Union “Minnesota’s first Black-led community credit union.” The state has 62 state-chartered credit unions and 25 federally-chartered credit unions. The last time a credit union was chartered in Minnesota was 2001 when the Catholic United Financial Credit Union opened in St. Paul.

Hurston, who has been the ABEP executive director since December 2020, called North Minneapolis a “banking desert,” and said payday lenders are prevalent in the area. Speaking on the podcast about people who are supporting the credit union effort, Hurston said: “A lot of the time, residents find themselves in a never-ending generational cycle of debt. These citizens decided to come together and produce or create a financial institution that is sensitive to their journey and can offer solutions to move forward.”  

Hurston, who was the communications director for the Minnesota Bankers Association from 2000 to 2006, cited two significant Twin Cities police incidents that motivated her to lead the ABEP and pursue the credit union application: The 2016 fatal shooting of Philando Castile and the 2020 death of George Floyd. “In addition to addressing the policing injustice, they also wanted to address the economic injustice,” Hurston said of supporters.

“I expect the credit union to be a great source of pride for the residents in the neighborhood,” Hurston said. Although its field of membership will be made up of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, Hurston said the focus of the institution will be North Minneapolis.

The location of the credit union had not been disclosed as of the end of February. Dan Johnson, who has been named CEO-designee of the credit union, said during the podcast that he is seeking a location and that “we are in negotiations as to how that will work out.” The credit union said it will offer services both in-office and via digital channels. The expected opening date has not been determined.

A 40-year resident of North Minneapolis, Johnson is a former Wells Fargo employee and he most recently was a branch manager for GEICO Insurance

Hurston said the Gates Foundation and the McKnight Foundation have provided funding to ABEP for the credit union effort. Other media reports noted the support of the city of Minneapolis and the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation, which supports efforts to boost North Minneapolis. 

Hurston also noted the support of the Northside Funders Group, which counts among its sponsors Wells Fargo and Old National Bank. 

Members of the credit union’s board of directors include vice chair Adam Maier, the co-chair of the Banking and Financial Services practice at Stinson; Steve Kelley, the Minnesota Commissioner of Commerce from 2019-20, and Hurston. 

While the application and regulatory process unfolds, the ABEP is promoting the credit union on its website, inviting potential customers to fill out a survey identifying their key financial needs. The survey also asks potential customers to estimate the average deposit balances they are likely to maintain in checking and savings accounts at the credit union.