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Pay for it with Thurmoney

(3/6) When Berkshire County, Mass. wanted to revitalize its local economy, the business community introduced BerkShares, local currency that can be used in various businesses in the county. Thurmont Main Street Manager Vickie Grinder wants to do something similar for Thurmont using “Thurmoney.”

“It’s a way to promote independent businesses and drive the economic development engine,” Grinder said.

BerkShares are issued in five denominations: 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, and 50s. The bills portray local heroes, landscapes, and the work of local artists. Every BerkShare spent helps keep local money in the community. Thousands of people in Berkshire County use BerkShares on a regular basis for food, movie tickets, clothing, books, music, and a variety of services from legal advice to landscaping, from car repair to carpentry.

Grinder’s idea is to do something similar with gift certificates in various denominations that can portray various landmarks in town.

“Because they would have to be processed by town employees, we need to get the approval of the commissioners first before I start signing up businesses,” Grinder said.

Among Thurmont’s 86 locally owned businesses, Grinder thinks at least 30 and possibly 50 would be interested in accepting Thurmoney.

“It’s an opportunity to buy a local gift and have it be good at 50 different places,” Grinder said.

The BerkShare is actually a 10 percent discount note, which means each $1 in BerkShares costs 90 cents in U.S. dollars. This gives people using the local currency more buying power and more of a reason to shop locally.

Grinder said she will investigate this possibility for Thurmony with the business survey she conducts during the annual Thurmont Business Expo, which will be on Mar. 28 at Catoctin High School.

The BerkShares web site notes, “Using BerkShares will be a citizen's way of voting for local businesses and keeping money local.”

Grinder said she will be taking the idea to the town commissioners when she can get on their agenda.

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