Central Star to merge with Garden City credit union

07/28/2014 11:07 AM

08/08/2014 4:31 PM

Lee Williams said Central Star Credit Union officials had a decision to make in advance of Monday’s announcement that it was merging with a bigger, Garden City-based credit union.

The $75 million credit union founded 74 years ago by 10 employees of the former Beech Aircraft Co., had reached a point where growth was becoming difficult in a market that continues to work through a slowdown in aviation and is filled with lots of competing banks and credit unions. To prosper, it needed to find a way to grow and expand.

Merging with $450 million-asset Golden Plains Credit Union became the answer, Williams, CEO of Central Star since 1997, said.

“Some of it had to do with stagnation in aviation, but most of it was about looking forward, to continue to grow and prosper in a community that’s inundated with financial institutions,” she said. “This really came to us as the best possible option for us to grow, to continue to do the things we want to do for our members and employees as well.”

The merger between Central Star and Golden Plains is expected to be completed before the end of the year, following state and federal regulatory approvals.

Golden Plains will become the succeeding, or “surviving” institution, said Great Plains member-president Erich Schaefer.

“We’ll all end up being Golden Plains,” Schaefer said. “It’s likely that we will leave their branding the same, making it a division so we can ease our way into (the merger) over a period of time, just to make the transition easier.”

Golden Plains operates 12 locations and has 62,200 members, including 3,000 in Sedgwick County.

Central Star has one branch in Haysville and two in Wichita; it has 8,700 members.

Financial terms of the proposed merger were not disclosed.

Schaefer said his credit union does lending across the state, and that’s how it’s built membership in Sedgwick County. But Golden Plains has never had a physical office in the county.

He said the Central Star merger will “fill out” an area of the state in which it wants a presence, and “improve our market share in the Wichita area.”

Golden Plains has branches in 11 Kansas cities, mostly in western and southeastern parts of the state. Its closest branch to Wichita is in Hesston.

Schaefer said Golden Plains was established in 1951 to serve members of the Garden City Cooperative.

Williams, who has been with Central Star for more than 30 years, 17 of them as CEO, said she’s in the process of deciding what she will do once the merger is complete.

“I’ll determine that probably in the next 90 days,” she said.

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