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Waterford — More than 100 people attended the grand opening today of the new 65,000-square-foot headquarters for Charter Oak Federal Credit Union, which Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hailed as an “exciting moment” for the region.
Malloy pointed out that the credit union, launched in 1939 when a group of shipbuilders placed $250 into a shoebox to get it going, already has the largest membership in eastern Connecticut among similar financial institutions. Its 65,000 members also places it among the top three in the state.
“I wouldn’t bet against them being the largest in the not distant future,” Malloy said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told the crowd attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1055 Hartford Turnpike that the story of Charter Oak is far larger than a financial institution turning $250 into an $18 million office building.
“Its profound strength is in its people,” he said. “It is rooted in this community. It gives back constantly to its community. It’s not about the bottom line, but about people achieving their goals.”
Brian Orenstein, chief executive officer, declared the headquarters opening as “a really great day for Charter Oak.”
“We built this building for our membership and by our membership,” he said. “We wanted to make a bold statement about our ... success.”
Tony Sheridan, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, noted that Orenstein made the decision to build the credit union’s new office building — which also includes Charter Oak’s 14th branch — just as a recession fell over the nation, hitting eastern Connecticut particularly hard. While some might have canceled a project of such magnitude and waited for better times ahead, Orenstein stayed the course, he said, hiring local contractors as well as both union and nonunion workers.
Charter Oak said the new branch office, which officially opened an hour after the ribbon cutting, will create 10 new jobs in the region. The building features a 28-foot-high atrium, a reception area next to an internet cafe and a 190-seat community room.
After the brief ceremony, participants — including retiring state Sen. Andrea Stillman, and state Reps. Betsy Ritter and Kevin Ryan — were invited to look inside the new headquarters.
“This is awesome,” said Paul Formica, East Lyme’s Republican first selectman and a candidate for state senator in the 20th District who could face Ritter in the general election. “This is a nice cornerstone for the community. It shows how regional things are becoming.”
“It’s marvelous,” added John Trolland, who runs a tax-resolution business in New London. “I kind of wish I had an office here.”
The new office, just off Interstate 395, is part of a consolidation of operations that brings key tasks under one roof. The previous headquarters building on Chicago Avenue in Groton will continue to house one of Charter Oak’s branches.