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Blackhawk Community Credit Union’s Legacy Center project sits unfinished in downtown Janesville.

JANESVILLE

Blackhawk Community Credit Union has eliminated seven leadership positions as the credit union refocuses its operations amid the economic uncertainties of the COVID-19 era.

Marketing Director CeeCee Philipps confirmed that, late last week, the credit union parted ways with seven employees who have held leadership roles at the Janesville headquarters.

The layoffs come after the credit union announced a shift away from a bevy of development plans downtown, including the future Legacy Center, a museum space that would honor workers at the now-demolished General Motors plant.

They’re also a sign of more changes in the credit union’s ranks since the departure last month of CEO Sherri Stumpf. The credit union has declined to comment on the circumstances that led to Stumpf’s departure.

It was Stumpf who publicly led an aggressive foray into large-scale real estate developments in the last few years, including the purchase of the decrepit Town and County restaurant property on South River Street.

Philipps said one of the seven employees laid off last week was the building project manager who had overseen two developments: the proposed Legacy Center in the former First National Bank downtown and a new corporate headquarters on Rockport Road. The credit union has shelved both projects amid economic shifts partly tied to the pandemic.

The shift away from real estate development eliminated the need for that position, Philipps said. She said the other leadership positions were not considered central to the credit union’s renewed priority: a focus on servicing members.

Philipps couldn’t provide details, but she said a number of members might be struggling with their finances. The COVID-19 shutdown has led to a recession-level wave of local layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs.

“The (eliminated) leadership positions were great positions, but we need to be focused so that we can fulfill our obligation to our credit union members,” she said. “We need to make sure we are here using our funds for the people who really need it right now. And that is those who are struggling to pay their mortgages.”

In addition, the credit union plans to close two Kenosha branches, Philipps said. The branches do not have drive-up service, which is something customers increasingly need during the pandemic.

No branch closures are planned in Janesville, and Philipps said the credit union remains in “strong” financial shape.

“We would like to be able to use our funds to continue to help people,” she said. “We’re setting ourselves up to be able to help the people that need it before, during and after (COVID-19). We want to be positioned strong. We want to have looked at our processes to the point where we’re going to be able to do a lot of good for a lot of people in our area and in our communities in the coming months.”

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