Redwood Credit Union secures Napa site for 700 employees — over time

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As it nears the end of its sixth decade, Redwood Credit Union is preparing for future growth with a southern Napa Valley facility that over time would be able accommodate up to 700 more employees.

Redwood has nearly that many employees now — over 600 — and had three existing buildings in Sonoma County for back-office functions that have dwindling elbow room for them, according to Brett Martinez, president and CEO.

“We need all the space we can get,” he said.

Redwood at the end of last year purchased a 20,000-square-foot building at 1190 Airport Blvd. in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park and 8 acres of undeveloped land next to it. Designs for new buildings there are still in the early stages with Santa Rosa-based Axia Architects, but the goal is to start with a facility core that can be added to over time.

“We’re not relocating,” Marinez said, emphatically.

The credit union will still be based in its 103,000-square-foot headquarters at 3033 Cleveland Ave. in Santa Rosa. Also staying put is RCU Auto Services, a car lot for selling used vehicles located at 3219 Santa Rosa Ave. in Santa Rosa.

Of Redwood’s $3.37 billion portfolio of loans and leases at the end of September, 29 percent were loans for new vehicles ($590.2 million) and used ones ($387.5 million), according to filings with the National Credit Union Administration.

A back-office function that has moved to the new Napa site is RCU Insurance Services. It had been located in leased space at 446 W. Napa St. in the city of Sonoma but relocated in June.

“… we’re in the process of moving some people in there, and there are still some tenants there,” Martinez said. “That is intended to give us time to build the building.”

The two biggest reasons for the south Napa expansion facility are access to a bigger talent pool and disaster recovery, according to Martinez.

“We already made a decision before fires last year that we needed good backup disaster-recovery capabilities,” he said.

Secondary locations in bigger employment areas and having separate operations in multiple locations are trends among credit unions. For example, Alaska USA Credit Union, one of the nation’s largest, had a mortgage office in Southern California.

Though cloud computing has been gaining momentum in the corporate world over the past decade, credit unions tend to be late-adopters, according to Kirk Drake, CEO of Ongoing Operations, a technology consulting firm for such institutions.

“The Cloud presents the biggest opportunity for our industry to significantly increase our agility and positively transform the way we handle security and disaster recovery, allowing us to refocus a Credit Union’s technology talent on membership growth and nurturing,” he wrote in December while highlighting top industry trends for this year.

Over six decades, Redwood Credit Union has grown from handling just the financial needs of Sonoma County government employees to having locations across the North Bay and in San Francisco. It started out as Sonoma County Employees Credit Union in January 1950 with seven employees operating out of the county Auditor’s Office, which at that time was located in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square. As the scope of membership widened, the name changed to the current one in 1982.

Today, Redwood has 17 branch offices in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and San Francisco counties and had 249,102 members at the end of September, according to the credit union regulator. Annual growth in members was 9.5 percent in the third quarter.

Quarterly total assets were $4.41 billion, up 21.3 percent from a year before. That would put Redwood into the top 40 of credit unions nationwide, based on a tally of assets earlier this year by MX Technology, a technology provider for financial institutions.

Third-quarter net income was $67.5 million, up 25.3 percent over 12 months.

Redwood has a branch in Napa, and improvements are underway for a second Napa Valley branch, set to open in American Canyon leased space in April.

Earlier this month, Redwood’s first Lake County branch started coming out of the ground and is set to open in June in Lower Lake off Highway 29. The credit union currently only has an ATM in the county, located at Bruno’s Shop Smart Center in Lakeport.

“We have members and staff in Lake County, and we played a role with the fires and recovery,” Martinez said.

The institution partnered with The Press Democrat — which like the Business Journal is owned by Sonoma Media Investments — and state Sen. Mike McGuire on raising $3 million after the 2015 Lake County wildfires. And after the October 2017 wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties, the three partners brought in and distributed $32 million through the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

Dave Buurma of Pacific Union International represented Redwood Credit Union in the Napa property deal, and Vince Butler represented seller Lake Street Ventures.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, real estate and construction. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4256.

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