Bravo For BerkShares
Measuring Up - Have you heard about BerkShares? I first learned about it Sunday night on this ABC News segment. This alternative currency named after the region for
which it was originated in Western Massachusetts (Berkshire County) has
caught on like wildfire. And, I can see why.
Started in 2006, BerkShares are now being substituted for official US
currency in over 370 businesses in Berkshire County. Basically, any citizen
of this county can go to one of 13 banks there and pay $95 for $100 worth of
BerkShares. (That's a 10 percent discount for those of you who aren't very
good at math.) If you go to its web site, you can see that pretty much every
type of service and product business from bakeries, and clothing stores, to
restaurants, hotels, fitness centers and landscapers accept and transact
business with BerkShares currency. Even residential and commercial landlords
are accepting BerkShares as payment for rent. And, that is the critical
point because the more consumers and businesses conduct commerce with any
currency, the more value it will provide to the community by keeping money
in the local economy. In fact, more than $2.3 million
BerkShares have circulated through this small New England community since 2006.
There's nothing new about specific regions or communities creating
alternative currencies. In fact, BerkShares are actually a throw-back to the
Great Depression when a number of cities tried to print and circulate their
own currency because our national one was worth almost nothing. The
difference this time around is that nothing has ever been so widely adopted
and enthusiastically accepted as BerkShares. And, that's pretty cool.
Everyone continues to look for bright spots in this dark economy. I think
the Berkshire region has found a gem. The ability for its citizens to
receive discounts on almost everything they buy with this currency is
certainly the core economic benefit. But, what is really exciting to see is
that this story is more about how a community is truly unifying in the
toughest times to find ways to prosper. Many people in the Berkshires seem
just plain giddy about what their tiny community has developed. And, a
little happiness goes a long, long way these days.