NCCU grows wide and tall
Dominica's National Cooperative Credit Union (NCCU) is building the country's largest financial institution both in office space and in total assets
You see it standing there, imposingly – if somewhat inelegantly, clocked in protective cover, steel rods jutting out to the heavens and elsewhere.
You notice it planted there – although still a work in progress - dwarfing Jackson's little shop, as if ready to devour it.
You can't help but detect the progress of this structure, symbolic perhaps of the growth of the credit union.
You see the commanding signs of the renovation and expansion of the National Co-operative Credit Union (NCCU)'s Roseau branch and head office all over 31-37 Independence Street.
"We have amalgamated five branches. We are also looking at two other credit unions to transfer their assets into the NCCU; in addition, we are seeing an increase in membership, and our customer service area is (too small)," explained Michael Augustine, the chairman of the NCCU's board of directors. Herein lies the rationale for the EC$6 million project.
The two credit unions expected to formally join the NCCU are the South Eastern Credit Union and the Castle Bruce Credit Union. Their application is awaiting approval. However, Augustine is confident that it's just a matter of time.
"We expect our members to approve it," he told The Sun. In keeping with the philosophy of "people helping people", the NCCU chairman has suggested that this expansion is for the good of the people who are members of the cooperative, for the good of the public it serves.
"Much more improved services. We expect members will (be served) in a more comfortable environment," he told The Sun.
The expanded office will include facilities for aging members, and conveniences catering to the needs of the younger and more technologically savvy members. In addition the NCCU plans to target the corporate clientele.
"Services plus facilities," Augustine explained. And, of course, there's the long term vision of a single, stronger, more cohesive movement.
"We were strategic and forward thinking in naming the credit union the National Cooperative Credit Union because we expect that (at some point) there will be one credit union and the expansion and renovation will take care of it," Augustine told The Sun.
As for Jackson's little shop that stands defiantly in the shadows of the NCCU's growing head office, an attempt was made to purchase it in order to facilitate the expansion.
"We tried, we tried," Augustine said.
But the owner wouldn't budge. First, there was an asking price which the NCCU refused to meet. Later, it was "no deal".
"They were not very willing (to sell). We met with the owners and let them know we are expanding and it was met with a 'no.'"
Augustine would not reveal what the initial "crazy, unreasonable" demands were, saying he did not think it was appropriate to divulge what was discussed in the board room. However, he hinted that it was a lot more than the property was worth.
"Maybe the owner has children and they see an increase in the value and they probably expect you to dump millions of dollars into their hands," he told The Sun. "Their demand was high and having consulted - maybe with children and other family members - it came down to 'we are not selling'. But in the interest of members it sometimes is best to leave it alone, and hopefully in time the owner will realize they have to evaluate their property and (sell for what it is worth)."
He ought to have a fair idea of the value of the property; after all, the NCCU purchased the Continental Inn. In relation to the Jackson store issue, the NCCU is apparently having a similar experience with Jays Bookstore when that company, in the process of constructing a new building had difficulty in purchasing a small shop standing near its site, before they eventually settled.
The project was expected to be completed by October of this year, however, Augustine said, they experienced "some delays from some of our suppliers". As a result, there will likely be "at least a six to eight weeks delay".
With total assets of over EC$400 million, the society is second only to the National Bank of Dominica as a financial institution, although the NCCU is reporting "financial growth" in 2013 while the NBD has reported a loss.
Evidence of the NCCU's growth is seen and felt in various spheres. One of the most glaring pieces of evidence stands prominently, imposingly, right before your very eyes, on Independent Street.