Save neighborhood businesses: Create local currency

That’s what the folks in Southern Berkshire, Mass., decided to do to encourage residents to support local restaurants and retailers. And during an economic downturn, when those mom and pop shops seem particularly vulnerable, it’s not a bad idea.

The Southern Berkshire residents created BerkShares, available in $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations. Any local businesses that accept the BerkShares denote this in their storefront windows, and 12 local banks exchange federal currency for BerkShares (the exchange rate is $9 for every 10 BerkShares, which gives a 10 percent discount rewarding people for shopping locally).

Good magazine (where I learned about this program) has a video on its website with one of the creators of BerkShares saying that the community has experienced an increase use of BerkShares since the economic downturn."Money at home means an economy keeps moving," the reporter notes.

It seems that something like might be too big and complicated for the entire City of Dallas to pull off, but perhaps local chambers of commerce, like the Oak Cliff Chamber, could institute a program specific to Oak Cliff restaurants and retailers. The Bishop Arts District merchants gave away Bishop Arts Bucks in a Jingle Bells raffle, so maybe the idea could expand from there.


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