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Whatcom Watch Online
Make Whatcom County’ A Resilient Local Economy

April 2011

Make Whatcom County’ A Resilient Local Economy

by Caitlin Quigley

Caitlin Quigley is a member of the Transition Whatcom Personal Finance Workgroup.

Editor’s Note: On Sat. April 16, Transition Whatcom’s Personal Finance Workgroup will host a free event: “Move Your Money Action Day” from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship Sanctuary at 1207 Ellsworth Street. The event will include a discussion on how to move your money out of big banks and into local banks and credit unions. Speakers include Kristi Laguzza-Boosman, an economic policy researcher, and Jared Gardner, of Real Wealth Portland, along with representatives from local banks and credit unions. The event, hosted by the Transition Whatcom Personal Finance Workgroup, revolves around how to build a resilient local economy in Whatcom County.

In 2003, Bank of America purchased my local bank and suddenly I had a Bank of America debit card in my wallet. I carried on as usual, delighted that there were big red ATMs on every block in every city I visited. At an orientation for a new job, they gave me a brochure for a local credit union with a few branches. Sounds restrictive, I thought. I didn’t join.

Then I got a sneaking suspicion that Bank of America was a little bit evil. I began to connect the news stories about shady executives and corporate tax evasion to my little debit card. Why exactly was I banking with them? What were my other options? I looked at the credit union brochure again and learned that credit unions are cooperatives owned by their members. Even though the credit union had only a few branches, it was connected to a huge shared branch and ATM network. I could get cash for free from any 7-11 in the country. Wow, that’s pretty convenient. I opened an account.

Benefits of Local Ban

Slowly I weaned myself from Bank of America, switching over direct deposits and automatic payments to my new credit union over a few months. Then I closed my Bank of America account. Since then, I’ve formed a more solid case for the merits of local banking. For every dollar in your account, your bank or credit union can loan out $9.

That means that when you open a $1,000 account at a Whatcom bank or credit union, someone else in Whatcom County can borrow $9,000. You’re making capital available to your neighbors instead of boosting shareholder profits. That’s why moving your money is not just about rejecting big banks; it’s also about embracing and strengthening our local economy.

Whatcom County is lucky to have so many choices of local banks and credit unions. People’s Bank, Business Bank, North Coast CU, GaPAC CU, Pacific NWCU, ICU, and WECU are all deeply rooted in our community. They have earned our loyalty. Yet, as of June 2010, Bank of America had $347.1 million in deposits in Whatcom County. Chase had $174.1 million and Wells Fargo,$159.9 million. Can you imagine how self-reliant Whatcom County could be if everyone did something as simple as switching his or her bank account?

If you’re trying to decide among Whatcom banks and credit unions, you should definitely attend this event. For more information, go to: and learn about the campaign and how to bring our money home to Whatcom County. For more information on Transition Whatcom, go to: §

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