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Why credit unions and small businesses are beating out big banks

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OPINION: Eight ingredients for a peaceful society 

North Dakota may have America’s only state-owned bank, but it is far from being the only community bank to flourish despite the financial crisis. Community banks and credit unions all over the country are growing their market share and doing it in a way that benefits the communities they serve. In just the last few months, more than 650,000 people opened new credit union accounts, depositing some $60 billion.

The recent growth could cause the credit union system to have more than $1 trillion in total assets, according to the Credit Union National Association chief economist Bill Hampel. Investment banks still have important roles to play in the economy, but we can look to more community-based models for economy growth. And big banks may follow suit.

In Cleveland, Ohio, the Evergreen Cooperative, a group of worker-owned green businesses, includes a laundry business that services the big schools and hospitals in the city, a solar installation and energy efficiency company, and a commercial greenhouse that will produce 5-6 million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs each year.

Finally, in Oakland (where I live), there’s a company called Sungevity that has helped thousands of people nationwide put solar panels on their roofs at no upfront cost through an innovation called a “solar lease.”

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