Keeping Money Local

Albany Times Union - Those of you who have visited Great Barrington and the southern Berkshires
in the past month may have noticed some unusual currency being spent in
local businesses.

The currency, called BerkShares, has been available in the southern
Berkshires since Sept. 29. About 115,000 share units are circulating. Using
the local currency, its backers contend, keeps wealth local and supports
busineses that are local.

The currency is similar to the Ithaca Hours that have been in use in Ithaca,
Tompkins County, for the past decade. Each Ithaca Hour is worth $10, the
average hourly earnings of
Ithaca residents when the system was launched.

The folks behind BerkShares say the currency was accepted at more than 180
local businesses as of Friday.

BerkShares’ approach is somewhat different from Ithaca Hours’, in that it’s
backed by federal dollars, with 10 Berkshares costing $9 to purchase. But
the businesses that accept them do so on a one-to-one basis. That means you
can pay for that $30 meal with 30 Berkshares, which would have cost you $27
to purchase.

Berkshire Bank, Lee Bank and Pittsfield Co-Op Bank in Great Barrington offer
the currency, as does Salisbury Bank in South Egremont and Sheffield,
according to BerkShares’ Web site.

The local currency project is sponsored by the E.F. Schumacher Society based
in Great Barrington, which is named for the British economist who advocated
decentralization and wrote the book, Small is Beautiful.