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Many of the 300 workers of the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union began their workday Monday with a song and bit of cake.

Chattanooga's biggest credit union turned 80 years old on Monday so staff members began the day singing happy birthday and enjoying some of the many cupcakes offered to workers and members at the 15 offices of the TVFCU across the region.

The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union was chartered on June 5, 1936 under the Farm Credit Administration when 57 Chattanooga TVA employees pooled $500 together to start the member-owned institution.

Since then, TVFCU has grown to more than 120,000 members with nearly $1.2 billion in assets at 15 branches throughout its 13-county service community in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.

The growth has been fueled by a series of mergers with other credit unions and an expansion of its membership bond to include anyone living, playing or worshipping in its 13-county area.

But for all of its growth, TVFCU President Todd Fortner said he is eager to continue to expand the local credit union.

"We're definitely evaluating other branching opportunities within our community charter across our 13 counties," Fortner said Monday. "We think we've got lots of opportunities to continue to grow. There are a lot of institutions our size that have twice as many branches that we have and every time we open a new facility we seem to enjoy another spurt in growth."

Fortner said the credit union hasn't yet applied for new branch locations, "but we're continuing to evaluate where we might want to expand our services."

The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union is now the fifth biggest credit union in Tennessee and the biggest locally based lending institution in Chattanooga.

Although credit unions are nonprofit and more limited in their lending capabilities than commercial banks, the Tennessee Valley credit union is exceeded in asset size by only three commercial banks in Chattanooga — all of which are headquartered elsewhere.

TVFCU will be marking its 80th birthday during the Riverbend Festival, which starts Friday. Every night on the stage that the credit union sponsors, a different artist will sing happy birthday to the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union.

"We like to tell everybody about our 80th birthday because we think it is a symbol of strength and stability to survive this long through all of the economic ups and downs that have occurred during this period," Fortner said.

Tennessee's oldest credit union, TNConnect, was founded in 1924 to serve Knoxville postal workers and has since expanded its membership bond to include a variety of employees and residents in Knoxville.

The biggest credit union in Tennessee is Eastman Federal Credit Union in Kingsport, Tenn., which has nearly $3.4 billion in assets from more than 115,000 members.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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