WICHITA, Kan.-Meritrust CU, formerly Boeing Wichita CU, is preparing for one of its original sponsors to close up shop.

Boeing has had a presence in Wichita since 1929, but the company plans to close its plant here by the end of 2013, impacting nearly 2,200 local employees.

According to Meritrust CEO Bob Corwin, about 5,000 of the credit union's 74,000 members receive payroll from Boeing, though those members are spread beyond just Wichita and the immediate area. Meritrust is currently evaluating ACH files and matching those up with address files to identify Boeing payroll being paid to Wichita residents.

While some Boeing Wichita employees will be offered the opportunity to transfer to facilities in Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Puget Sound, not all will have the option. Meritrust has reached out to Boeing's VP of human resources to ensure that HR understands the CU's capabilities to provide transitional services and financial counseling programs. Corwin said Meritrust will offer financial counseling to help affected employees budget, as well as investment representatives to assist with evaluating retirement options. There will also be programs for members to help with cash flow, loan modifications and more.

Corwin noted that while a loss of 2,200 jobs is significant, Boeing's presence in the area had been diminishing for a number of years. "But it is a company that's been here for 80 years," he said. "That's probably as hard to take emotionally and from a morale perspective as the actual job losses."

Has Been Down This Runway Before
Corwin said that because the credit union has been affiliated with the aviation industry for many years, it has grown adept at working with the ups and downs associated with the industry.

Meritrust has issued a note on its website (www.meritrustcu.org) about the Boeing closure, including the fact that it participates in shared branching and can continue serving members who relocate to other Boeing facilities. Aviation historically played a large role in the local economy-Wichita has been nicknamed the "Air Capital of the World"-and Corwin said that other companies with a presence in the area, including Spirit and Learjet, may be able to take on some employees who receive pink slips from Boeing.

Corwin indicated that Meritrust's fortunes would not be adversely affected by the Boeing situation, at least not long term.

"I don't want to downplay the importance of it, because 2,200 jobs is 2,200 jobs," said Corwin. "But in the large scheme of things it won't affect the credit union any more than any other business in Wichita is going to be affected by the loss of those jobs."

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