Sherod Halliburton has been on a mission since 2012 to spread the word about the services and growing financial strength of Manatee Community Federal Credit Union.
Halliburton, the dynamic 50-year-old president of the credit union, located at 604 13th Ave. E., first took his message to the immediate neighborhood, and then countywide.
Founded in 1958 for Tropicana employees, the credit union had seen its customer base fall steadily in recent years. As recently as 1989, Tropicana had 2,757 employees in the Bradenton area, compared to about 1,200 earlier this year, according to data from Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation.
“The institution had to make a decision where we go from here,” Halliburton said.
Options included merging with another credit union or breaking away from Tropicana and opening its membership to the public. The board of directors decided to open up the membership.
Halliburton, who had served as executive director of Bradenton’s Central Community Redevelopment Agency for 7 1/2 years, was recruited for the credit union by then-president Cindy Barco as executive vice president.
He spent his entire first year going into the community, talking to organizations and groups about Manatee Community Federal Credit Union.
“It could be five people or 100. It was the start of growing our brand,” he said.
In 2002, it was designated a low-income credit union because of the demographics of its neighborhood. Even so, the only people who could use the credit union were Tropicana employees.
I view a small credit union’s investment in technology as being similar to an inner city kid’s investment in an education. It is an equalizer.
That changed in 2005, when Manatee Community’s charter was expanded to include all of Manatee County.
In 2012, the credit union modernized and doubled its space to 5,000 square feet and began growing its staff from about 11 to 17.
When Barco retired after 35 years of service in 2013, Halliburton became president and chief executive officer. At the time, it had assets of about $25 million.
Today, Manatee Community has assets of $35.9 million and is growing.
“We are in the top 10 percent of all credit unions in our asset size in the country,” Halliburton said. “When I joined the credit union, our loan rate was minus 22 percent a year.”
On a recent Friday, Manatee Community Federal Credit Union was humming with activity as it hosted one of its twice-a-year car sales events for some of Bradenton’s smaller dealers.
“It’s a great opportunity not only for the dealers, but for community members,” said Walter Spikes of Urban Auto Sales.
One of the goals of the credit union is to reach out to the most challenged neighborhoods of Bradenton to help educate residents on how to begin saving, work on their credit scores and obtain a loan.
“I love it. It’s a passion,” said Tameka Burch-Moore, who left an 18-year career with Manatee County government to work as a financial empowerment coordinator and community outreach for the credit union.
Getting on sound financial footing can help residents pay less for essentials, such as a car and housing.
“I like to say it is not how much money you have, it’s how much money you have access to,” Halliburton said. “We focused on a market that had largely been ignored. That’s what separates us from other institutions.”
A growing part of the credit union’s business is coming from a wealthier base, attracted by some of the programs at Manatee Community.
For the future, the credit union is focusing on technology, rather than brick-and-mortar branches.
“More and more people are accessing banking through ATMs or online. I am looking to create the financial institution of the future,” Halliburton said.
Manatee Community invested in a nationwide network of 6,500 ATMs where customer can make transactions without incurring a fee.
“I view a small credit union’s investment in technology as being similar to an inner-city kid’s investment in an education. It is an equalizer,” Halliburton said.
History of Manatee Community Federal Credit Union
- 1958 – Founded to serve employees and family members of Tropicana Products
- 2002 – Designated as a low-income credit union
- 2005 – Charter expanded to serve all of Manatee County
- 2012 – Certified as Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)
- 2014 – Expanded field of membership to include participants in poverty elimination programs
- 2016 – Launched Community Network Poverty Elimination Program
Source: Manatee Community Federal Credit Union
Manatee Community Federal Credit Union today
Where: 604 13th Ave. E., Bradenton
Hours: 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday