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What are BerkShares?

BerkShares are a local currency for the Berkshire region of Massachusetts. Dubbed a "great economic experiment" by the New York Times, BerkShares are a tool for community empowerment, enabling merchants and consumers to plant the seeds for an alternative economic future for their communities. Launched in the fall of 2006, BerkShares had a robust initiation, with over one million BerkShares circulated in the first nine months and over 4.3 million to date. Currently, more than four hundred businesses have signed up to accept the currency. Five different banks have partnered with BerkShares, with a total of thirteen branch offices now serving as exchange stations. For BerkShares, this is only the beginning. Future plans could involve BerkShares checking accounts, electronic transfer of funds, ATM machines, and even a loan program to facilitate the creation of new, local businesses manufacturing more of the goods that are used locally.

Click here
for more information about BerkShares.


 
 
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Frequently Asked Question about BerkShares

What are BerkShares? (continued)

How are BerkShares placed in circulation?

How does the 5% discount work? Where does that 5% go?
Where can I spend BerkShares?

What do I have to do to accept BerkShares as payment?
How do BerkShares help the local economy?
How do I get my business listed to accept BerkShares?
How do I work BerkShares into my accounting?
How can I support BerkShares and BerkShares, Inc.?
What is the timeline for BerkShares?

Where can I get more information about local currencies?


What are BerkShares? (continued)

The purpose of BerkShares is to function on a local scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scale—building the local economy by maximizing circulation of trade within a defined region. Widely used in the early 1900s, local currencies are again being recognized as a tool for sustainable economic development. The currency distinguishes the local businesses that accept the currency from those that do not, building stronger relationships and a greater affinity between the business community and the citizens of a particular place.

The people who choose to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy local first. They are taking personal responsibility for the health and well-being of their community by laying the foundation of a truly vibrant, thriving local economy.

BerkShares will not, and are not intended to, replace federal currency. Their use will help strengthen the regional economy, favoring locally owned enterprises, local manufacturing, and local jobs, and reducing the region's dependence on an unpredictable global economy.

How are BerkShares placed in circulation?

BerkShares are placed in circulation when citizens exchange federal dollars for BerkShares at any of the BerkShares Exchange Banks (see list below). Some restrictions may apply.

Citizens may exchange federal dollars for BerkShares at any of the BerkShare Exchange Banks during normal bank hours (some restrictions may apply):

Banks Accepting Berkshares - More Details

Berkshire Bank—Main Street, Great Barrington branch
Berkshire Bank—Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington branch
Berkshire Bank—Main Street, Stockbridge branch
Berkshire Bank—Lee branch
Berkshire Bank—Sheffield branch
Berkshire Bank—West Stockbridge branch
Lee Bank—Main Street, Great Barrington branch
Lee Bank — Park Street, Lee branch
Lee Bank—Elm Street, Stockbridge
Lenox National Bank-Main Sreet branch, Lenox
Pittsfield Coop Bank—Main Street, Great Barrington branch
Salisbury Bank—Egremont branch
Salisbury Bank—Sheffield branch

The exchange rate is ninety-five cents per BerkShare. Ninety-five federal dollars will yield one hundred BerkShares. BerkShares are printed in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 denominations of BerkShares.

Federal dollars remain on deposit at the BerkShare Exchange Banks to redeem excess BerkShares at a five percent discount. 100 BerkShares would be exchanged for ninety -five federal dollars.

How does the 5% discount work? Where does that 5% go?

The five percent discount is part of the exchange rate, not a discount given at the point-of-sale. That 5% doesn't "go" anywhere - no one is making a percentage on BerkShares transactions. To explain more clearly, let's follow 100 BerkShares through a common transaction:

One day, you decide to go out for a nice dinner. You go to the bank to purchase BerkShares to spend at a local restaurant. You go in with 95 federal dollars and exchange them for 100 BerkShares. You go to dinner, and the total cost comes to $100. The restaurant accepts BerkShares in full, so you pay entirely in BerkShares. Therefore, you've spent 95 federal dollars and received a $100 meal - a five percent discount for you. The owner of the restaurant now has 100 BerkShares. They decide that they need to deposit them for federal dollars and return them to the bank. When they bring them to the bank, the banker deposits the 100 BerkShares you spent on dinner and gives the restaurant $95 federal dollars, the same 95 dollars that you had originally exchanged for BerkShares. The end result? You receive a five percent discount because of the initial exchange, but the same $95 you originally traded for BerkShares all goes to the business where you spent those BerkShares.

BerkShares Accepted Here!

Citizens with BerkShares in hand will look for the "BerkShares Accepted Here" sign in store windows or can browse the BerkShares Directory. BerkShares are accepted at face value for goods and services—10 Berkshares for a $10 purchase, though some restrictions may apply. Every business listed in the BerkShares Directory and displaying the BerkShares sign commits to taking full or partial payment for its goods or services in BerkShares. Most listed businesses accept BerkShares for the full value of an item, but some find they cannot and so it is important to ask about store policy before making a purchase. BerkShares provide a flexible and adaptable tool to meet the needs of differing business.

Change for purchases in BerkShares will be made in BerkShares. Customers paying with federal dollars may ask for BerkShares in change.

By accepting BerkShares merchants are helping to establish markets for locally made products, providing an incentive for the growth of home-based industries and creating opportunities for those underemployed and unemployed to turn latent skills into business ventures.

What do I have to do to accept BerkShares as payment?

Any business or individual may accept BerkShares as payment and then spend them as they choose. You are not required to sign up with BerkShares, Inc. to trade in BerkShares! However, we strongly advise that you do choose to sign up with us and join our business directory for a number of reasons. First, you'll receive materials that will help you trade in BerkShares, including brochures, information, stickers, and other promotional materials; second, you'll receive our updates and newsletters, which will keep you informed of the latest BerkShares developments, and third, you'll receive free listings in our online directory and in any future print or display advertisements or catalogues that feature a list of businesses.

How do BerkShares benefit the local economy?

Everyone benefits from using BerkShares. Consumers benefit from receiving a 5% discount on purchases. Businesses benefit from increased patronage. Local non-profit organizations can also benefit by purchasing BerkShares at the 5% discount rate and selling them at full face value to their supporters.

It will take citizens working in their own communities, region by region, to create the kind of systemic change that will lead to sustainable economic practices—practices that foster ecologically responsible production of goods and a more equitable distribution of wealth. Local currencies are a tool to bring about such change. BerkShares are about building community while building the local economy.

How do I get my business listed to accept BerkShares?

Your business will be listed once you register with us using the sign-up page.

How do I work BerkShares into my accounting?

Click Here for information on BerkShares accounting.

How do I support BerkShares and BerkShares, Inc.?

Buy and spend BerkShares! Use them the same way you would cash in your day-to-day transactions. Trade them for goods and services outside of stores; remember, a local currency is only successful if it is traded and valued locally. If you would like to help support BerkShares, Inc., the non-profit organization comprised of community members dedicated to introducing a viable, strong local currency for the Berkshire region, please consider becoming a member today! The membership sign-up page can be found here.


What is the timeline for BerkShares?

In the summer of 2007, BerkShares, Inc., conducted a survey about use of BerkShares. The results of that survey are listed under Press Information at this site.

As a result of the survey and the vibrant use of the currency, the board of directors decided to continue the program indefinitely.

Where can I obtain more information about local currencies?

For further information on local currencies, please visit the website of the
Schumacher Center for a New Economics.

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BerkShares, Inc. | P.O. Box 125 | Great Barrington, MA 01230 | info@berkshares.org