Historic credit union approved on the north side of Minneapolis

A credit union on the north side of Minneapolis will make history when it opens.

The Village Financial Cooperative has been given the green light to open for business by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

“Our goal is to ignite a black economic renaissance that sparks on the north side that spreads all throughout our state,” said Me’Lea Connelly, of the Village Financial Coop.

Connelly’s mission began two years ago in the wake of the police killing of Philando Castile. The purpose was to do something to improve the lives of African Americans. She decided that improving economic conditions was the best approach.

“Black folks and folks of color are not being served by traditional financial institutions,” Connelly said. “It’s actually the opposite. They become very vulnerable to those institutions and the primary financial institution on the north side is predatory lenders, payday lenders and check cashers.”

In a brick office building on Colfax Avenue North, Connelly runs Village Financial, which began this year making very low interest loans to combat the predatory payday loans. So far, she has seen a 100 percent repayment rate.

“You know there were a lot of naysayers early on who said, and I quote, ‘You can’t have a credit union of have nots,’ and so this moment really pushes back against that concept,” Connelly added.

This moment she speaks of came from the Minnesota Department of Commerce Wednesday when it approved a contingent charter for Village Financial to become a full credit union.

Now, Village Financial moves to the federal approval process to decide if it will get insurance on its deposits.

What it means for the residents in North Minneapolis is an option finding ways to helping escape economic injustices rather than prolong them.

“We want to be leaders in this space and we want to join with other partners that believe in the promise in removing these inequities and standing behind a community that, you know, is Minnesota,” Connelly said.