Want to grow your local businesses? Print your own money

Want to build a stronger sense of community? Print your own money.

That’s what the people in Burlington, Vermont, and 4000 other communities worldwide (not so sure how accurate that is) are doing. Yes, Burlington Bread is a legal currency, called slices instead of dollars, and in $1, $5, $10, and $20 denominations. Even the City of Burlington is involved in its growth.

Circulation began in 1998, and merchant membership is around 40 or so, with some well-known local venues, like coffeehouses and cafes, doing trial runs. “Slices” can only be spent by merchant members who agree to accept them, and they can’t be exchanged for US dollars. There’s even an online bank, with checks/credit in the works.

While the concept is great, I would suggest one thing to vastly improve circulation, mainly because I can’t see spending any significant dollars at the member merchants, like herbs, house sitting, and massage therapy. I would allow one major merchant to be able to exchange them back into US dollars, and let that be the City Market, the downtown grocery market (and a co-op to boot). I can pretty much guarantee circulation would more than double overnight.

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