The resilience of local economies is key for surviving economic downturns like the one we're currently facing. Communities will support local economies in a number of ways by investing in local businesses, shopping local, or supporting local supply chains, and throughout COVID-19, we've seen some innovative approaches.
Take Tenino, Washington. An article in The Hustle outlines how this small town has begun printing its own currency for residents to use at local businesses. Mayor Wayne Fournier, in coming up with ways to provide support to businesses, sought ways to directly help families and individuals:
Fournier decided that Tenino would set aside $10k to give out to low-income residents hurt by the pandemic. But instead of using federal dollars, he’d print the money on thin sheets of wood designed exclusively for use in Tenino. His mint? A 130-year-old newspaper printer from a local museum.
Fournier’s central idea is pulled straight from Tenino’s own history. During the Great Depression, the city printed sets of wooden dollars using that exact same 1890 newspaper printer. Within a year, the wooden currency had helped bring the economy back from the dead.
By reinstating the old currency now, Fournier has accidentally become part of a much bigger movement. With businesses worried about keeping the lights on and people scrambling to find spending money, communities have struggled to keep their local economies afloat.
So they’ve revived an old strategy: When in doubt, print your own money.
Today, these so-called “local currencies” might help small communities recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19.
Similarly, Haverhill, Massachusetts began a gift card-matching program at the start of the pandemic to encourage residents to support local businesses. Anyone who bought a gift card at a local business could receive up to $50 matched by the Chamber of Commerce.
In Vail, Colorado, the pandemic cut the ski season short, but local stakeholders worked together to supplement federal aid programs and ensure that "true mom and pop" shops were helped first, and that aid was given out according to need. Furthermore, changes like expanding outdoor seating and offering alcohol with takeout orders has helped mitigate some of the losses felt by small businesses. While the expanded consumption zones are only temporary, locals are hopeful that they've done enough to boost the local economy.
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P.S. Have you heard about MainVest's new referral program? When you invite friends to create an account, you'll both receive $20 in credit when they link a bank account. It's never been easier to do your part to rebuild Main Street.