Ent Credit Union, southern Colorado’s largest financial institution, will expand into six additional counties, growing its potential membership base by more than 1.5 million people.

The Colorado Division of Financial Services on Oct. 12 granted Ent’s request to add Adams, Weld, Boulder, Broomfield, Elbert and Larimer counties to its field of membership.

The approval allows Ent to offer credit union membership and services to businesses and individuals who live, work, worship or attend school in the six counties.

The credit union already served members in El Paso, Denver, Pueblo, Teller, Arapahoe, Douglas, Fremont and Jefferson counties, as well as parts of Adams and Weld counties.

The credit union has 16,000 members in the six new counties, said Victoria Selfridge, Ent’s vice president of corporate communications.

“We have a community credit union charter,” Selfridge said. “If someone lived, worked, worshipped or attended school in in an existing charter location before Friday, they could join the credit union.” Members who moved to one of the new counties could retain their membership.

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The credit union has almost 4,000 members in Elbert County, for example.

“That tells you a lot of people are commuting to Douglas or El Paso,” Selfridge said.

The credit union also had members in Adams and Weld counties.

“We ended up with some bits and pieces,” Selfridge said. “We acquired another credit union that served Buckley Air Force Base in Adams County, so Adams made sense for us. In Weld, we merged with U.S. Alliance Credit Union, which had one location outside of Denver, which we got through the merger.”

Selfridge said the credit union is actively seeking real estate to add service centers in the new counties, looking for branch locations in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties and is in the process of acquiring property in Cañon City.

“The Colorado real estate market is very competitive, so those opportunities can be hard to find, but we are actively looking for opportunities to acquire or build.”

“This field of membership expansion is part of Ent’s long-term strategy to increase our credit union’s geographic and economic diversity, which will provide us with added stability during economic downturns,” Ent CEO Chad Graves said in a news release.

“The composition of our membership and communities opens us up to some potential risk,” Selfridge said. “For example, the Colorado Springs economy is greatly influenced by the military and defense industries. If there was ever a downturn in those industries, it could have a disproportionate impact on the credit union. These new counties don’t have the same amount of their economies invested in defense, so they help diversify our risk.”

Ent is in the process of closing its Woodmen Service Center at 7110 Campus Drive in Colorado Springs.

Selfridge said the building was purchased by the View House, a restaurant chain, which has been leasing it back to the credit union while it constructed its University and Interquest service centers and provided time for Woodmen members to relocate their safe boxes.

Lobby access was closed on Oct. 13. Ent will discontinue drive-up service and officially close the Woodmen location on Nov. 3.

Ent currently serves about 332,000 members through 31 centers and additional ATM sites.

Selfridge said the credit union has about $5.46 billion in assets, more than $4.5 billion in deposits and $4.4 billion in loans as of Sept. 30.