Georgia Heritage Continues Expansion

Kimberly Ford

Monday, March 31st, 2014

The good news for Georgia Heritage Federal Credit Union is that most people need financial products and services. The bad news is that many people do not know what a “credit union” is or the difference between a credit union and a bank. 

But if you ask Georgia Heritage Vice President of Operations Robert T. Glore, Jr., he’ll sum it up succinctly: “Credit unions are not owned by stockholders. We are owned by the members. Because the credit union is all about our member-owners, we look for ways to improve our members’ financial well-being, whether it’s in the form of higher interest on savings or lower interest on loans. We serve people from all walks of life and situations, including those who are opening their first account, taking out their first loan, or those needing a second chance at cleaning up their credit. Our slogan is ‘The Difference is Relationships’ and, simply put, we’re here to help.”

This credit union’s roots run deep in Savannah. Established in 1940 as the Union Bag Federal Credit Union to serve the employees of the Union Bag Corporation working at the paper factory, the credit union began like all cooperatives. A group of Union Bag employees pooled their money to lend it out to coworkers who had difficulty getting a loan. From those humble beginnings, the credit union grew until it was the largest financial cooperative in the Savannah area. In 1966, the credit union changed its name to Union Camp Savannah Federal Credit Union to coincide with the new name of its sponsor group. In 1987, the credit union moved from its offices inside the Union Camp factory into a new 7,372-square-foot structure built on 1.4 acres outside the gates of Union Camp. Along with a lobby and drive-thru, the administrative offices continue to be housed in that building.

Having remained a single sponsor organization for 59 years, the credit union changed its name to Georgia Heritage FCU in 1999 when Union Camp Corporation was purchased by International Paper (IP). When IP began downsizing its workforce, the credit union volunteer board realized the credit union needed an expansion plan beyond the gates of IP. In 2006, Georgia Heritage received a community charter for the Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area comprising Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties. That means that anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in these three counties is eligible to open an account at Georgia Heritage. Now the credit union had a better way to grow. 

Two years ago, Georgia Heritage increased its footprint when it purchased a beautiful, large brick bank building on the Pooler Parkway in front of Publix. Branch Manager Billie Dees, who is also President of the Pooler Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, and her staff have worked hard to support the Pooler community. That effort was rewarded when Georgia Heritage’s Pooler branch was recognized as the “2013 Business of the Year” by the Pooler Chamber. 

With a third branch opened in March at the corner of Stephenson Avenue and Habersham Street in Southside Savannah, President/CEO Dale Taratuta is pleased with the credit union’s progress. “We work hard to provide a local alternative to the larger regional and national financial institutions,” Taratuta said. “Last year we launched mobile banking and added new features to online banking.

“Our long-term objective is to build a strong and growing credit union,” continued Taratuta. “Providing exceptional member service will be the key to our success. The credit union is committed to further expansion within our three counties.” 

For the staff and volunteer board of directors of Georgia Heritage, the best is yet to come.