MSUFCU expansion means opportunity for company and community

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By Savannah Swix
Entirely East Lansing

A plan that began over two years ago will finally go into motion as Michigan State University Federal Credit Union receives approval to build a $43 million expansion at its headquarters in East Lansing. Construction of the three-story, 187,300 square-foot office building is expected to begin in June of 2015 at the 2800 State Road property.

Credit Union Chief Executive Officer April Clobes said that the company’s success, as well as employee and membership growth, has contributed to the need for the additional space.

The headquarters, according to Clobes, holds close to 500 employees and the next building is projected to hold a similar number.

“We have about 200,000 members right now and 642 employees,” said Clobes. “A little over 220 (employees) are in our branches, so that means 400-450 employees are in this building. Then, if you have our growth in the next few years, we’ll be out of space.”

MSU Federal Credit Union has two branches on the campus of Oakland University in Auburn Hills as well as 12 branches in the Greater Lansing area including Okemos, Mason and Haslett.

Alyssa Basel attends Michigan State University, which has a branch in the Union building, and says that the Credit Union’s app is a useful tool for students.

“They have an app on your phone that you can deposit checks on there,” said Basel.

The company’s IT department, one of three departments that will be moved to the new office building, operates this app. The other two departments are the call center and E-services.

Clobes said these departments have been developing at exceptional rates.

“The call center, last year, had 523,000 calls, which has been growing at a pace of about 10 percent a year,” said Clobes. “So if you think about another 50,000 calls equals how many employees to answer those calls and to ensure that we continue the levels of service, we need to have the space for the employees.”

Members enter the headquarters at West Road in East Lansing.

Members enter the headquarters at West Road in East Lansing.

Tim Dempsey, director of the East Lansing Department of Planning, Building and Development, and the Planning Commission met with MSU Federal Credit Union on several occasions to discuss plans and permits for the expansion.

After the submission of a land-use approval, the Credit Union followed up with a request for a site plan and special-use permit.

“They submitted what’s called a site plan application and special-use permit and that application essentially looks at their proposed building and how it fits relative to that parcel of land,” said Dempsey. “That was approved through the Planning Commission and then went on to the City Council for approval and both bodies approved it unanimously.”

Dempsey said working with the Credit Union on this project has been smooth so far. The department will be involved with the expansion until the building is completed and is issued its certificate of occupancy.

Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris said this development and the city’s response has been representative of the Credit Union’s reputation.

“This was a pretty big proposal and the fact that it went so smoothly … it really is a testimony to them wanting to do business in our city and we’re very pleased with that because there’s surrounding communities they could build that in,” said Goddeeris.

The expansion benefits not only the company’s ability to grow and accommodate employees, it also supports taxpayers in East Lansing. According to the City of East Lansing’s Top Ten Taxpayers of 2014, MSU Federal Credit Union was the number one taxpayer with a total taxable value of $18,650,800.

“Those taxes are based on value, so the more valuable the property, the more taxes they pay,” said Dempsey. “With a property of that significance, they pay a fairly large tax bill.”

With more space, Clobes said this expansion would also allow the company to offer more opportunity for employment.

“Maybe not on day one will we be creating 500 jobs, but over 10 years we anticipate creating at least 60-70 jobs a year, potentially.”

Mayor Nathan Triplett has been an account holder at MSU Federal Credit Union since he was a student at Michigan State University. He said he enjoys seeing local businesses like the Credit Union thrive and give back to the community.

“If you look at how much they’ve grown in recent years, despite the pressures of the great recession, it’s very impressive,” said Triplett. “Their success then helps spill over and make success for the city in terms of good paying jobs, access to their financial services and, of course, … their support for community programs and events.”

City Councilwoman Kathleen Boyle said the effort that the Credit Union puts into designing its buildings is something to admire and she looks forward to seeing it in the coming building.

“They’ve done a beautiful building, spent thought and care on the landscaping so that it’s really a nice addition to the city,” said Boyle.

The Credit Union has a history of creating buildings that are certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Goddeeris said this added to the appeal of the expansion.

“They’ve been striving for that certification in all of their buildings to show that they’re forward thinkers in trying to do that. It costs more to do that and they put it in their buildings,” said Goddeeris.

Clobes said that she’s excited to see what this expansion and all of the changes will mean for the company’s future. In the present, she’s still celebrating the Credit Union’s success.

“I’ve worked at the Credit Union almost 19 years and we’ve grown so much since I’ve been here and it’s just a fun placed to be,” said Clobes. “Everyday we have something new, great new challenges, but it’s still the same place at its heart.”

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