Local currency might boost Hampden businesses

February 22, 2011

monopolyA specialized currency to support the local economy — a genius idea or an oversized game of Monopoly?

One community in Baltimore is hoping for the former with BNotes, a kind of local currency that people can use with certain businesses, and that businesses can use between each other. The Baltimore Sun says that the effort, centered mainly around Hampden, is being led by the Baltimore Green Currency Association in an effort to help small restaurants and mom-and-pop retailers fend off the big chains. The kicker to get people to use BNotes is the price — at 11 for $10, there’s a built-in discount.

The idea for using them to help boost the local economy comes through people receiving them and wanting to put them back into local circulation, the story explains. But, the system, like any other bartering or local currency system, doesn’t come without drawbacks. It can be inconvenient, and businesses might not want to invest too much in the program if they’re already facing a budget shortfall.

What do you think about this idea? I admire the group’s desire to boost local businesses over chains, that’s for sure. Is this program the best way to do it? I don’t have the answer to that.

I do know that I try to visit locally-owned businesses (and pay with cash) whenever I can, and as long as I can buy what I need. Restaurants and coffee shops? Absolutely. Groceries? Most of the time, depending on the selection. I like that I know the names of the people serving me, and if they don’t know my name, they at least recognize me. I like that if I have a suggestion, or a request, or a special order, they’ll listen to me — and not refer me to a corporate 800 number.

What it really comes down to is locally owned businesses can offer something the chains often can’t — in my case, individualized customer service. Will the BNotes be the unique thing for Hampden’s locally owned businesses? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Image courtesy of unloveablesteve via Flickr
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