Bay Bucks: Off to slow start, but members have faith
TRAVERSE CITY – Bay Bucks debuted last fall and while it still has a pretty low profile in the community, the commitment to the local currency remains strong.
Bay Bucks is a paper currency circulating within the Grand Traverse region. It was conceived by a group of volunteers to add wealth to the local economy, support locally-owned businesses and enhance economic sustainability and social justice.
According to the online directory at www.baybucks.org, there are 112 individual and business members of Bay Bucks. These early joiners are what Bay Bucks board treasurer Liz Berger identified as "easy converts," like-minded people who are vested in the local economy and the community ideals of a local currency program.
The big push this summer, Berger said, is to get more Bay Bucks out into the community and boost memberships, particularly with individuals.
"Overall, I have to say that it feels, to me, like a slow start. But in reality, with something as important as trust, it takes a long time."
A project of the Traverse Area Community Currency Corporation, Bay Bucks have the same local value as U.S. dollars, but can only be spent at local, participating businesses.
Kate Mitteer, owner of Zany Consignment Boutique in Traverse City and a member of Bay Bucks, said she isn't seeing much local currency flowing through her shop.
"But there are a couple people who come in and have them," Mitteer said. She said she still believes in the program and understands it takes time for a project of this kind to take hold in the community.
As expected in the early goings of the program, the bulk of Bay Bucks transactions are happening at Oryana, which accepts up to $5 in the local currency per transaction (once daily) from patrons. However, it now accepts up to 100 percent in Bay Bucks from its vendors.
Berger added that other businesses are seeing some Bay Bucks transactions, but certainly not a lot. For many, increasing local currency business is going to take creative thinking. Yet, it's clear that members still have faith in the program.
"I became a member of Bay Bucks because I believe in this community," said Stephanie Rorich Slawnik, who owns Collage After-School Arts. "No one has chosen to pay me in Bay Bucks, but I've used them at Zany and Oryana."
Berger said the organization hopes to celebrate Bay Bucks' first anniversary this fall by holding its first membership meeting and electing a board of directors. The current board consists of self-appointed individuals.
Their web site is www.baybucks.org.