Shop local program expands in Michigan City

Michigan City's East Pier Lighthouse is an iconic local landmark. Two credit unions in Michigan City are offering a loyalty program that encourages people to shop local.

John Luke, The Times, File

MICHIGAN CITY | A second credit union in Michigan City is offering a rewards program to encourage people to shop local.

Elkhart-based INOVA Federal Credit Union partnered with Austin, Texas-based Buzz Points, which is run by a Michigan City native, to offer a loyalty program similar to those big national chains have. Michigan City's Members Advantage Credit joined up last year.

INOVA has seven branches in Northwest Indiana, including one at 1025 S. Carroll Ave. in Michigan City.

"We have been searching for a loyalty program that could not only support our mission to improve our members' financial well-being but also improve the financial health of the communities we serve," said Kerie Sekal, managing director of card services for INOVA Federal Credit Union. "Buzz Points aligns with these lofty goals by empowering us with the means to reward our members for shopping locally."

It also provides the many independent merchants in the area with the marketing tools they need to compete, Sekal said. And it will help support the shop local movement.

The program is free to use. Anyone with an INOVA debit or credit card can earn points that can be redeemed for gift cards at local merchants. The idea is to encourage shoppers to support the local economy instead of national big-box chains. Local merchants also get access to data analysis and marketing tools they might not otherwise be able to access.

"Since 1942, INOVA Federal Credit Union has served members in a region with a rich manufacturing and entrepreneurial heritage that extends to the many small businesses that comprise the area's retail and service sectors," said Buzz Points Chief Executive Officer Dwayne Spradlin, who hails from Michigan City.

"Through its sponsorship of local arts and cultural events and by partnering with local chambers of commerce in Elkhart and beyond, INOVA has long demonstrated a commitment to the local business community," he said.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.