In another sign the regional economy is slowly improving, Redwood Credit Union, Sonoma County's second-largest financial institution, reported its net income jumped 142 percent last year.

The nonprofit cooperative booked $14.7 million in net income last year, up from just more than $6 million in 2010, thanks in part to fewer bad loans.

The Santa Rosa credit union also saw its membership rise 16 percent last year, as consumers canceled accounts with national banks and took their business to local financial institutions.

Typically, the credit union sees approximately 1,200 new members a month, President and CEO Brett Martinez said. But that number soared around the national Bank Transfer Day protest on Nov. 5, peaking at 3,700 in November.

The volume of new arrivals has since tapered, but the credit union still took on more than 2,000 members in January, boosting its membership to more than 210,000, Martinez said.

"We're not seeing the momentum really slowing down," he said.

The nationwide trend to local banking also boosted Santa Rosa's Community First Credit Union, whose membership increased 10.2 percent to 13,142.

"It was the best year we have ever had in terms of attracting new members," Community First spokesman David Williams said.

Redwood Credit Union's ranks were further increased by a merger with Cal State Central Credit Union. Together, the new additions helped boost RCU's total assets by 12 percent to $1.9 billion, second only to Luther Burbank Savings among Sonoma County-based financial institutions.

Total loans and leases meanwhile rose 4 percent to $1.4 billion.

The biggest boost to Redwood Credit Union's net income, however, was the decline in bad loans, which allowed the credit union to set aside less money to cover loan losses.

Such provisions have dropped from $48 million in 2009 to $38.9 million in 2010 to $26.9 million in 2011.

"Consumers are growing more financially stable and able to pay back their loans," Martinez said.

Redwood's performance echoes Exchange Bank, the county's oldest community bank, which posted a 19 percent increase in annual profits last week, again largely because of a marked drop in provisions for loan losses.

"Reducing their loss provisions is a sign that the worst seems to be over," said Ben Stone, executive director of the county's Economic Development Board. "The good news from the financial institutions is another indication that recovery is underway."

Bill Schrader, Exchange's president and CEO, said there are key differences between a publicly-traded, for-profit bank like his, whose loan portfolio is weighted toward businesses, and a nonprofit credit union, which deals with more consumer borrowers.

But both institutions, he said, are bellwethers of the local economy.

"It's a good sign for us to see an institution like Redwood Credit Union tracking in a similar way to Exchange Bank," Schrader said. "It's telling us encouraging signals about our economy."

Community First saw total assets rise from nearly $120 million to a record $130 million. Loans and leases, however, declined from $98 million to nearly $92 million and net income decreased 66 percent to nearly $493,000.