At a time in America when obtaining a loan was difficult for the average family, the founders of OTIS sought to form a cooperative, independent financial institution operated and controlled solely by its local membership.
On April 11, 1954, the first meeting of OTIS Division Federal Credit Union was held at Moore’s Hall in Livermore Falls (which has since been replaced by the Livermore Falls Municipal Building). Charter members were Roderick Perry, Ovila Morin, Reney Therrien, Clarence Fournier, Percy Perkins, Mario Luciano, William Sutton, Wilfred Gagnon, Roland Ouellette, Joseph Dube, and James Dunham. Inspired by a Permanent Resolution Committee for the International Labor Union meeting, whereby a resolution was proposed to allow labor unions to form credit unions, the founders of OTIS returned from Wisconsin and, after much discussion with their fellow members of the Local 8 Pulp, Sulphite, and Paper Mill Workers, voted to organize a credit union for the workers of Otis Paper Mill and their families.
Elected to the Board of Directors were Roderick Perry, President; Ovila Morin, Vice President; William Sutton, Treasurer; Clarence Fournier, Secretary; and James Dunham, Director. Members of the original Credit Committee members were Reney Therrien, Ralph Beaulieu, and Roland Ouellette. Frances Crosson, Percy Perkins, and Mario Luciano comprised the first Supervisory Committee. Pooling their respective deposits of $5 each, these individuals associated themselves as charter members of OTIS under the provision of the Federal Credit Union Act. An office at the home of William Sutton on High Street in Livermore Falls was opened, and OTIS Division FCU was officially born.
The first Annual Meeting took place at Moore’s Hall, and a 3% dividend was given at the end of the first year. After its first year in operation, OTIS had grown from 20 to 321 members, and had reached an asset size of $15,665.30.
In 1955, Mr. Morin resigned from his role as Vice President, and was succeeded by Walter Newell. The following year, Robert Armandi replaced Clarence Fournier as Secretary, who had also resigned.
By 1956, the credit union’s membership had grown to 459, and assets had climbed to $52,915.84. By the following year, 1957, assets had reached $115,698.70, and membership had swelled to 618 people.
The credit union occupied various office spaces during its early years, including the basement of Reney Therrien’s home on Otis Street in Chisholm and then later, in 1957, in Therrien’s home on Main Street in Chisholm. By 1965, Otis’s assets had grown to $1,000,000.00, and it had become obvious to the Board that the Credit Union needed to expand if it was to continue to grow and to effectively serve its members. In 1965, the Board determined that OTIS’s current location was lacking in both sufficient office space and parking space, and began to look for a parcel of land to purchase on which a new and enduring facility could be built. The Board examined many potential sites, but eventually settled on the land where the OTIS office remains to this day.
OTIS Federal Credit Union became the first area financial institution to pay interest on Christmas Club accounts in 1965, and later, on Share Draft accounts. The following year, 1967, the OTIS charter was amended to include retired employees of I.P. (International Paper) Company.
The first meeting in the building that was to be the Credit Union’s new home was held on October 1, 1969. By the end of that year, assets totaled $1,716,500.00 and membership had grown to 1,992.
In October of 1971, Roderick Perry resigned as President after serving for 17 years in the position; Rene Beaudette was then appointed President. Share Draft (checking) accounts were added in 1976.
By 1979, the credit union’s 25th anniversary year, assets had grown to $7,275,500.00 and total membership stood at 4,300.
By the end of 1982, the Board of Directors had concluded that space had again become a precious commodity, and that an expansion of OTIS was again necessary. As such, the Board concluded that constructing a new building was the only practical long-term solution. An open house at the new 6,800 square foot facility (which had effectively doubled the Credit Union’s office space) was held on March of 1986. Assets at the end of the previous year, 1985, had grown to nearly $21,500,000.00; Jay, Livermore Falls, Wilton, and Canton senior citizens had become eligible for membership; and a merger with Friendly Service Credit Union had further expanded the OTIS field of membership to fourteen area towns.
In April of 1986, Roland Poirier was hired as manager and attained the position of President, which he retained until his retirement on December 31, 2017.
In 1987, the International Paper Androscoggin Mill went on strike. Being the major employee in the community and having a very large percentage of union employees doing business with OTIS saw the credit union’s delinquency rate rise to over 33%. Throughout the time of the strike, OTIS worked diligently and faithfully with its members. The strike continued through 1988, at which time the union was voted out, causing many employees of I.P. to lose their jobs. Despite this, members continued to make the best efforts to pay back their loans to OTIS because of the faith that the credit union had placed in them during this trying time. Assets continued to grow, and the credit union went on to not only survive, but to thrive.
By 1994, OTIS’s 40th Anniversary year, a host of new services including night depository, Automated Teller Machines, VISA, safety deposit boxes, direct deposit, share drafts with protection, bill payer service, clubs, money management, real estate loans, and an OTIS telephone information service had been added, making the credit union a truly full-service financial center.
In July of 2000, OTIS became the first area financial institution to offer secure home banking on the Internet via OTIS Online. Over 700 members signed up for this new service within the first six months.
In 2002, the OTIS field of membership expanded to serve all of Franklin County. In June of that year, the credit union began the process of a $2,400,000.00 expansion. Completed in 2003, the renovation and new 11,000 square foot addition to the OTIS site had again doubled OTIS’s office space; 2 more drive-up lanes, a Member Resource Room, and a new teller area were among the Credit Union’s new features.
By 2004, the credit union’s 50th year of operation, OTIS had made over 98,000 loans totaling over $436,000,000.00
Today, OTIS is a full-service financial center offering real estate, auto, and personal lending; online and mobile banking; a variety of checking, savings, and investment accounts; VISA debit and credit cards; financial planning; and much more. OTIS serves more than 11,000 members and holds over $172,000,000.00 in assets, employing 31 people from Jay and the surrounding area. Kim Turner succeeded Roland Poirier as CEO/President of OTIS FCU in January of 2018. In 2019, OTIS FCU celebrated its 65th anniversary.
The enduring success of OTIS can be traced back to many individuals who volunteered their time to the Credit Union, individuals who strongly believed in the ethos of “people helping people.” Today, OTIS strives to embody this philosophy in all that we do. Thanks to a group of people who, in 1954, knew that life could be better if they pooled their resources and worked cooperatively, OTIS continues to thrive and to evolve to this day, while still remaining true to our deep community roots and guiding, foundational principles.