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PIONEER VALLEY — As local leaders in renewable-energy financing, Franklin First Federal Credit Union and UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced unprecedented success in solar lending volume in 2023. Reflecting upon a record-setting year for both credit unions, during which UMassFive financed 1,272 installations totaling $50,923,810 and Franklin First financed 86 installations totaling $2,746,489, both organizations are reaffirming their dedication to facilitating sustainable futures through access to affordable financing options for solar-energy projects.

Continuing a long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and community development, both Franklin First and UMassFive have been at the forefront of financing both local and regional solar projects for more than eight years. Offering competitive rates with flexible terms, no loan-origination fees, and personalized service, these financial institutions have empowered individuals and businesses to embrace clean-energy solutions and reduce their carbon footprint.

“Solar is an integral source of sustainable energy for our community,” said Michelle Dwyer, Franklin First president and CEO. “At Franklin First, we are proud to be able to offer funding through our solar loan program to the residents of Franklin County. For us, investing in solar energy means helping households offset energy costs, supporting small business solar contractors, and contributing to the betterment of our community through green energy.”

Rich Kump, UMassFive president and CEO, added that “sustainability is a core principle at UMassFive. We are incredibly proud of the impact we’ve had in advancing solar-energy adoption within our local community, and especially for economically disadvantaged households. Our record-setting year in 2023 is a testament to the growing demand for renewable-energy financing and the effectiveness of our green lending programs in meeting those needs.”

While solar energy continues to gain momentum nationwide, both Franklin First and UMassFive look to remain synonymous with accessible financing options for solar projects of all sizes. “We’re just looking to do our part in helping Massachusetts meet its very ambitious climate goals,” Kump said.

In addition to lending solutions, both credit unions are dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of renewable energy and promoting sustainable practices within their communities. Offering educational initiatives, outreach programs, and community partnerships, the credit unions are working to inspire adoption of clean-energy solutions and take meaningful steps toward a greener future, all while knowing their collective efforts have helped individuals and businesses save on energy costs and contributed to a cleaner, healthier planet.

40 Under 40 Class of 2023

Chief Operational Officer, Franklin First Federal Credit Union: Age 38

Sarah ErmanSarah Erman didn’t attend college to prepare for a financial-services career. In fact, her focus as an undergraduate at MCLA was photojournalism.

“I worked with some local newspapers, and I did some freelance with the Greenfield Recorder until I got my job here at the credit union,” she recalled. “My student loans were coming due, and I needed to actually have a job that supported me for the payment of those loans. And there was an opening at Franklin First.”

Starting as a teller, Erman moved into member services and eventually became operations manager and then chief operating officer.

“This was not where I initially saw myself,” she said. “But the more time I spent at the credit union, the more I saw my future there, helping to provide new experiences for our members and staff. The philosophy of the credit union is people helping people, and that’s what really got me to stick around. Once I understood the philosophy, I really fell in love with the credit-union world.”

Erman said she wears many hats, including day-to-day operations, facility management, compliance, and security, and she acts as the institution’s Bank Secrecy Act officer.

She also earned praise from President and CEO Michelle Dwyer for bringing Franklin First up to date with modern technological standards that helped it navigate the pandemic seamlessly. “Had these operational improvements not been made,” Dwyer said, “our credit union would not have been able to continue meeting the needs of our membership.”

Active in the community in numerous ways, Erman has served on the board of directors for Root to Rise, volunteers at the credit union’s financial-education events, and helps nonprofits that reach out to Franklin First for assistance with creating new events.

Notably, she’s heavily involved with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin, serving for the past four years on the fundraising committee that enables three large events each year: the Hope and Healing Breakfast, the Race to End Child Abuse, and the Chipping Away at Child Abuse golf tournament.

“It’s unfortunate those services have to be provided, but they’re such necessary services,” she said. “I feel like I’m able to give back to these kids and the community by helping these committees raise awareness and raise funds for such an important, deserving organization. Those community events are critical to the operations they provide for kids in the community.”


—Joseph Bednar