The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday January 24th

Activists to Distribute Local Currency

But some residents have banded together to try an old idea in a new area to preserve local business enterprises.

Local currencies have been tried all over the country for 200 years. While many have not stood the test of time, a few continue to exist today. The newest member to this group is the Piedmont Local EcoNomy Tender, or PLENTY.

The idea behind the local currency is residents can spend the bills, which come in one, one-half and one-fourth denominations, at participating businesses. The more businesses that participate in the program, the more useful the currency becomes, thereby giving residents the ability to use the PLENTY for all their needs.

Amnissa Clarke, the interim president of NCPlenty's board of directors, said the PLENTY is designed to keep money in the community. NCPlenty organizes, regulates and distributes the PLENTYs.

"When you spend U.S. dollars, the money changes hands maybe three times before it goes into someone's bank account," she said. "With the PLENTY, it will go around maybe eight times, and it will stay here the whole time."

Clarke said the idea for a local currency has been kicked around by several people for years, but the actual organization did not begin until July of last year. Businesses and individuals can join by paying a $12 fee or volunteering two hours of their time.

"Right now we've got 70 members," Clarke said. "In Ithaca, they had over 350 members after the first year."

Clarke was referring to the Ithaca HOURS, a local currency that has been in use since 1991 in Ithaca, N.Y. The PLENTY system is being based on the HOURS.

Scott Burke, a member of the HOURS board of directors, said the main problem faced by local currencies is image.

"These types of things generally get started by progressively minded people," he said. "Because of that, the perception a lot of times is that of 'hippy' money."

Burke said that when local currencies start out, the key to success is diversity. "The hospital accepts HOURS, the library and the credit union deal in HOURS," he said. "We've gotten universal acceptance."

And universal acceptance is the goal, said Mark Dorosin, a Carrboro alderman and owner of the night club Hell, which is participating in the PLENTY program.

"This is a valuable opportunity for people to help the local economy, to support businesses, artisans and craftsmen," he said. "I hope people will look past the sort of quirkiness of it."

Clarke said PLENTY will debut at an Oct. 5 meeting, where each member of NCPlenty will receive five PLENTYs initially, which equals 50 U.S. dollars. "We will be electing our board of directors and doing our first issuance of the currency," she said. The group plans to release the equivalent of $5,000 initially.

Residents and businesses interested in joining NCPlenty program can e-mail NC PLENTY at ncplenty@ncplenty.org.

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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