From humble beginnings to serving 21 counties, DuTrac celebrates 75 years

DuTrac Community Credit Union

Founded in: 1946

Workforce: About 120 employees

Locations: 13 offices in Iowa and Illinois


As DuTrac Community Credit Union celebrates a major milestone, officials say a focus on personalized service has helped the organization stand the test of time.

“We want to do what’s right for our members,” said Mike Ready, a longtime member of the DuTrac board of directors. “That’s our ultimate goal. People take care of people, and we take care of our members as well as our staff.”

This summer, the Dubuque credit union celebrates 75 years of operations.

DuTrac was established on July 25, 1946. At the time, employees of the John Deere Dubuque Tractor Works plant sought an option for financial services for them and their families.

Rather than a for-profit bank, however, they envisioned a nonprofit service owned by the members — a credit union.

“Here you have a bunch of workers getting together saying that they’re going to take their banking into their own hands, which was rather revolutionary at the time,” said Jason Norton, DuTrac’s senior vice president of marketing and business development.

On Aug. 5, 1946, employees of John Deere Dubuque Tractor Works met in the basement of the plant to elect the first directors of DuTrac. At that point, the credit union had 56 members, and its physical operations were modest.

“The first ‘office’ was inside the Dubuque (John Deere) plant,” Norton said. “It was just a desk and a tackle box with money. Eventually, it … expanded to an actual office within the plant.”

In 1969, the first DuTrac office outside the plant opened on Peru Road in Dubuque. This was the first step toward DuTrac’s expansion into a community credit union, which occurred in 1985 during a merger with John Deere Davenport Works Credit Union.

“When we started, you had to be an employee of John Deere or a family member (to join the credit union),” said Ready, who is himself a retired John Deere Dubuque Works employee. “We got permission to open up our charter to a community credit union in 1985. That means it could serve anyone in a certain geographical area.”

Today, that area includes 21 counties in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. More than 120 employees staff the credit union’s 13 offices, located in Clinton, Dubuque, Dyersville, Eldridge, Maquoketa and Monticello, Iowa; Moline, Ill.; and the Quad Cities area.

“The growth has just been phenomenal,” Ready said.

He noted that the company only has had three chief executives since its foundation — Walter “Wally” Lester, from 1953 to 1984; Tom Sarvis, from 1984 to 2007; and Andrew Hawkinson, from 2007 to present.

“Over 75 years, we’ve only had three leaders,” Ready said. “I think that says a lot about the credit union as well as the leaders we picked.”

Throughout the years, DuTrac has merged with multiple local and regional credit unions, and its membership has grown to more than 49,000.

Even with such a large base, Norton said DuTrac strives to offer individualized services to each member.

“DuTrac is very individually person-focused when it comes to its members,” he said. “It’s our duty. It’s who we are as an institution, to work with people one-on-one to help them, for example, improve their credit scores. … We’re more than willing to listen and try to find solutions.”

DuTrac offers a wide variety of financial services, including vehicle, home, commercial and personal loans, checking and savings accounts, credit cards and wealth management resources.

The credit union also emphasizes financial education through programs such as their Savasaurus Kids Club, launched in 1994. Dinosaur mascot Sunny the Savasaurus teaches members 12 and younger to develop good saving habits.

“(Sunny) has become quite popular with the kids,” Norton said. “He often makes appearances at schools and parades.”

Norton added that DuTrac also has provided educational programs for local organizations such as Fountain of Youth.

Ready has attended several regional and national conferences during his years on the board. He said DuTrac’s variety of financial services sets the organization apart from the other credit unions he sees at these events.

“I don’t really know a product or service that we don’t offer and probably offered prior to most of those other folks,” he said. “I think we have a fantastic staff here at DuTrac, and we are always looking for ways to improve our members’ experience.”

From economic recessions to increased regulations and reporting requirements, DuTrac has weathered many storms in its seven-decade history.

Norton noted that nationwide, credit union numbers have declined dramatically since he started at DuTrac, highlighting the challenges faced by local institutions such as his.

However, he praised the Dubuque area for its healthy and competitive financial landscape.

“Dubuque has only about 60,000 residents and several greater-than-$1 billion-asset banks and credit unions in the area,” he said. “It’s very competitive, but it also shows that we’re all very strong and capable financial institutions.”

As it enters the next 75 years, Norton said DuTrac is committed to adaptability in the face of a changing financial industry.

“There’s certainly changes that are possible, but we also will adjust and go with the flow,” he said. “That’s what we always have done and what makes us stronger.”