Community banks and credit unions are best for local businesses

The Heights is Greater Cleveland’s best asset—next to the lake, of course. The Heights has fantastic restaurants and it’s just up the hill from nationally recognized health care facilities. It has viable local merchant districts, neighborhoods with fine homes, is adjacent to the cultural icons of University Circle, and it’s inhabited by the most diverse demographic of Northeast Ohio. We should do more than celebrate this community; we should fiercely protect and grow the Heights as innovatively, efficiently and aggressively as possible.

I propose that the community consider a community-wide effort to secure what’s here, and to establish programs that move as much commerce as possible through our local merchants, restaurants, retailers, service providers and employers; utilizing our banks and credit unions to provide simple rewards and “give backs” that also provide economic relief for residents and nonprofits.  

National increases in merchant and consumer card transaction costs, fees and interest rates provide few solutions to consumers focused on saving money and reducing spending. The ongoing “siphoning off” of local dollars by national banks, credit card issuers, mortgage companies, and the loss of the circulation of those local dollars by our community should be stopped before our local banks succumb to the same fate as many local retail stores.

First, we can join the “Move Your Money” campaign by moving our deposits and merchant transactions to our local (or nonprofit) community banks and credit unions that historically are the best source of funding for local businesses.

Second, we can use debit cards instead of credit whenever possible. Debit cards reduce debt, many now offer the same—or greater—rewards as credit cards, and they're almost always issued by a local financial institution. After all, if someone is going to benefit from the merchant’s overhead costs (i.e. card sale fees), why not the banks and credit unions that are supporting our community? Besides, your local merchant pays much less for debit than credit card transactions.

Third, our community retail, restaurant and service sector could simply request to more fully utilize their existing point-of-sale terminals, to provide a small percentage of a completed sale back to the consumer as an incentive to think—and shop—local, first. Such programs are being heavily pushed by hundreds of national, online retailers as rewards, so why not capture these opportunities for our brick and mortar merchants?

Finally, ask your local bank, credit union, favorite auto repair shop or restaurant to consider participating in this effort. If you're looking for a local financial institution, local credit unions include Cardinal Community, Century Federal, the Cleveland Heights Teachers Credit Union, Sts. Margaret & Gregory Credit Union and Steel Valley Credit Union. Community banks in the area are Parkview Federal and Third Federal Savings banks.

Jim Simpson is a Heights area resident and marketing manager for

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Volume 3, Issue 3, Posted 12:22 PM, 02.18.2010