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Merger of Woodlands and Northeast credit unions OK'd

Special to the Union Leader

November 05. 2012 8:46PM

BERLIN - The merger of Berlin-based Woodlands Credit Union and Northeast Credit Union, headquartered in Portsmouth, will be official Jan. 1, 2013, after a vote by Woodlands members on Oct. 27 to approve the deal.

The proposed merger drew protests, but in the end 60 percent of the Woodlands Credit Union members who voted were in favor of the merger with Northeast Credit Union.

The merger will bring the Berlin-based Woodlands under the NECU's umbrella, with the larger organization's board of directors increasing from nine to 11, and two new seats reserved for former Woodland's board members.

Woodlands has more than $112 million in assets and more than 16,000 members. NECU has more than 74,000 members, and more than $725 million in assets, with branches in Portsmouth, Exeter, Dover, Rochester, Manchester, Concord, Lee, Northwood and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The southern New Hampshire credit union was founded to serve employees at the shipyard, along with the area's federal employees.

Woodlands was founded to serve members of the United Brotherhood Local 75 Union and their families, and operated under the name Unity Brotherhood Credit Union. It expanded to include other employment groups, becoming a community-based credit union and changing its name about 10 years ago. With office locations in Berlin, Gorham, Conway, Plymouth and Lebanon, its service area includes Coos, Grafton, Carroll and Belknap counties, and membership is open to anyone within 30 miles of a Woodlands branch.

"Both Woodlands and Northeast have a long and storied tradition of providing exceptional personalized service to our members, and I am confident that Woodlands Credit Union member will see the value of the merger with Northeast immediately," said Timothy Collia, CEO of Woodlands. Collia will serve as NECU executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

Collia said that the main office in Berlin will not be downsized. "Berlin will continue to be our busiest northern branch," he said Monday, "as well as act as the backup data processing site in the event of a catastrophe striking the primary data processing site in Portsmouth."

Peter Kavalauskas, president/CEO of NECU, said, "By combining the strengths of both credit unions, we are able to provide all of our members with improved product lines, financial planning services, insurance offering, expanded technology services and greater financial stability." Kavalauskas said they would make the transition process as seamless as possible.

BerryDunn, a CPA firm in Portland, handled the vote count and verification.

"We will work to ensure a seamless integration so that you can conduct business as you always have, without any impact on your accounts," Kavauskas said in a release. "We will eventually convert Woodlands CU's members over to the Northeast Credit Union operating system, but this will not occur until August 3, 2013."

The merger was previously approved by each credit union's board of directors, the National Credit Union Administration and the state of New Hampshire's Banking Department.

Save Our Woodlands Credit Union Facebook page drew comments before and after the meeting, but the effort did not get enough support to stop the merger.

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