The Star-Herald

County Federal Credit Union celebrates 65 years in banking

HOULTON, Maine — With 65 years of banking experience, the folks at the County Federal Credit Union provide a wealth of financial expertise for both commercial and residential banking needs.

What started out as a small, military financial institution has now blossomed into eight branches in Aroostook, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, including Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Houlton, Bangor, Howland and Old Town. CFCU opened its newest branch in Mars Hill in September 2020.

The history of the company is well documented. The County Federal Credit Union was originally organized as Loring Federal Credit Union in 1956 to serve military and civilians who worked at Loring Air Force Base.

Joseph Bouchard Jr. was hired as the first full-time manager in 1958, and in 1964, Loring Federal Credit Union reached $2 million in assets, making it the state’s largest credit union. 

The County Federal Credit Union is celebrating its 65th year in banking. Shown here is the Caribou location.
(Courtesy of CFCU).

Holy Rosary Credit Union merged with Loring Federal Credit Union in 1969, making it the first Department of Defense credit union to expand into the local community. The following decade brought six other mergers with Loring Federal Credit Union: ACAP Federal Credit Union, Maine Sugar Industries Federal Credit Union, Limestone-Caswell Federal Credit Union, Presque Isle Federal Credit Union, Pamsong Federal Credit Union, and MPG Federal Credit Union.

In 1975, CFCU was one of the first credit unions to go online with The Maine Credit Union League’s data center, and was also the first credit union to offer share draft accounts. Patrick St. Peter wrote the first share draft to clear the system.

A name change to The County Federal Credit Union occurred in 1983 to better represent the communities the credit union was serving. 

In 1988, Joseph Bouchard Jr. retired and was replaced by Patrick St. Peter. In 1990, it was announced that Loring Air Force Base would be closed in 1994. Shortly after the announcement, the credit union moved its main office from Sawyer Road to Bennett Drive in Caribou. In 1993, a new branch office was opened in Fort Fairfield.

In 2001, after 37 years of service, Patrick St. Peter retired and Kenneth Hensler took over.

The County Federal Credit Union is celebrating its 65th year in banking. Shown here is the Houlton location.
(Courtesy of CFCU)

On Oct. 1, 2010, The County Federal Credit Union joined with Houlton Federal Credit Union. This merger expanded the existing field of membership to include all communities in Aroostook County south of Presque Isle. A new building at 247 North St. for the Houlton office opened on Jan. 22, 2013. Later that year, iTalk, a new and improved telephone banking service, was introduced, and soon after, County MoGO, The credit union’s mobile banking app, was made available.

After Kenneth Hensler’s retirement, Ryan Ellsworth was named president and CEO of The County Federal Credit Union in March of 2014. With a vision of growth, several developments were put into motion.

In December 2014, mobile check deposit was introduced. In 2015, new positions were developed and planned because of the continued growth: AVP of marketing, chief financial officer, and retail services manager. Over the course of the next several months, all of these positions were filled and new office space was acquired to house the administrative team. 

The County Federal Credit Union is celebrating its 65th year in banking. Shown here is the Presque Isle branch.
(Courtesy of CFCU)

In December 2015, the Operations Center, a 7,500-square-foot building with 16 offices, was moved into 110 Carmichael St. in Presque Isle.

With ever-evolving banking technology developments, new debit cards with EMV technology, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and upgraded and updated online and mobile banking were introduced. In late 2017 a new checking product, the first in several years, was introduced to the public. The YES Account offers members the latest in technology with mobile and online banking. One unique feature is the Round-It-Up capability to round purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference into the member’s savings account, allowing them to save money. At the same time, they spend and highlight what credit unions were originally founded on, thrift.

The financial institution just completed its most recent merger, a move which began when its board of directors and the Penobscot County Federal Credit Union board of directors voted in favor of merging. After completing a field of membership expansion that included all of Aroostook, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, members of the Penobscot institution voted in favor of the merger on Dec. 21, 2020. The action was completed on Jan. 1, 2021.  

At present, membership has increased to more than 30,000, with assets totaling over $380,000,000, ranking CFCU in the top 10 largest credit unions in Maine as of last month.

The ceremonial groundbreaking for the credit union’s newest branch in Mars Hill was held on Oct. 18, 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the timeline for construction completion and subsequent opening of the branch significantly, but at last the new branch opened for business on Sept. 8, 2020.  

The new 1,200-square-foot space features a new branch concept with a teller pod, a coffee/technology bar, and the only drive-up ATM in Mars Hill. The one-story, full-service facility is located at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 1A, at 1 Benjamin St. in Mars Hill.

“We endeavor to have our branches create amazing member experiences and to deliver what can’t be done through our other channels. We genuinely want a human connection to the credit union to drive our business into the future,” Ellsworth said.

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