Why do they call it that? Grow Financial Credit Union: A quirky name with a patriotic past as MacDill Federal Credit Union

6:55 AM, Aug 23, 2012   |    comments
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For a financial institution, it has a quirky name: Grow Financial. But plenty of folks would find its story patriotic and inspiring.

Why do they call it Grow Financial Credit Union?

Would you trust a smiling teller in a broom closet? You see, when this credit union first opened its doors, the door -- opened into a storage room!

"They were operating out of a broom closet," said Bob Fisher, Grow Financial's president and CEO. "If I remember right, they were open Wednesdays from 9 to 12."

Fisher is the head of what's now a credit union worth almost two billion dollars. Two billion now -- two hundred, back then.

"On MacDill Air Force Base in 1955, eight people got together -- pooled their $25 -- and actually got it started," Fisher said.

The new MacDill Federal Credit Union let folks pool their cash. That got them low-interest loans on stuff like the snazzy Ford Crown Victoria, which made its debut that year. A brand new, top-of-the-line Crown Vic cost $2,300.

As Disneyland welcomed in the world, and velcro, LEGO, and frozen fish sticks debuted, the credit union expanded. By the time folks were taking color photos, branches had come to towns like Clearwater and Brandon.

By 2006, they had around 18 locations... and sort of a problem.

"So many people thought that you had to be in the military to join because of the name MacDill," Fisher said. "But that law was changed in '84, and we had expanded out."

"So we felt it was time to take down that block, if we really wanted to continue to grow. And growing was important for us."

The idea was to get a new name for the credit union -- one that showed how much they wanted to grow in the community, how they could help people grow their money, how they wanted young members to grow along with them.

But nobody there could come up with a good name! So they brought in a company from Atlanta to help them figure it out.

Out of more than 360 potential names, one started to really grow on them.

"We had selected grow because it really said something to the youth and it was different," Fisher said.

"With the green color, with the green movement, things like that -- with the lower-case letters -- there was something different about it."

Before the new signs went up, they even called the commander of MacDill Air Force Base to let him know change was coming.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News starting at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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