Credit union opens new digs

OLYMPIA - Washington State Employees Credit Union has opened its new headquarters on downtown's Union Avenue, a project that was six years in the making and part of $65 million in new investment in the area.

The five-story, 130,000-square-foot building was opened in stages, said spokeswoman Ann Flannigan, who toured the new building Tuesday with Chief Executive Officer Kevin Foster-Keddie. Today, the credit union will celebrate the building’s grand opening.

After two years of construction, office space was opened in October, followed by a ground floor branch in November, one of 19 operated by the credit union, she said. The building also is LEED certified silver, which is a rating set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Washington State Employees Credit Union, formed in 1957, has grown to become the second largest credit union in the state with about 160,000 members and $1.4 billion in assets. As part of that growth, the credit union board decided six years ago to plan for a new headquarters after outgrowing its old location on Union Avenue, Foster-Keddie said. That 30,000-square-foot building will house the credit union’s data center, he said.

The credit union, dipping into its own cash, invested $65 million to buy land, construct the new building, build a 469-stall employee parking garage nearby and remodel the new and old headquarters, he said. Those investments should create a campus effect for the more than 300 employees who work in Olympia. Overall, the credit union employs about 500 statewide, Foster-Keddie said.

The fourth and fifth floors of the new building are occupied by employees and more are on the way as they transition from the old headquarters across the street. Eventually, most of the space in the old building will be available for lease and there’s some retail space available in the new building, Foster-Keddie said.

In addition to WSECU’s new building, two other buildings have sprouted on Union Avenue, including the condominium development at Union Avenue and Capitol Way known as Union Heights. The street also was repaved and sidewalks redone, resulting in a lot of recent construction for area organizations and residents, said Randi Miller, director of The Other Bank at the YWCA. The Other Bank, which is next door, collects household cleaning and personal hygiene products for needy families.

Miller said the YWCA’s red building isn’t as visible as it used to be. “I have to tell people to look for us,” she said. Still, she said the credit union was conscientious of its neighbors during construction and tried to “soften the blow” when it could. The credit union also has helped The Other Bank with donations, she said.

Although the new headquarters has opened, it caps a challenging year for the credit union, Foster-Keddie said. Like all financial institutions, the credit union has set aside funds to cover potentially bad loans, and at one point forecast a $10 million loss for the year, he said.

By cutting costs, such as limiting salary raises and instituting a hiring freeze, the credit union will earn a $4 million to $6 million profit for the year. Foster-Keddie said there were no layoffs as part of the cost-cutting, but he recalled Tuesday telling his staff that “you may have to learn a new job.”

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403