The greenback may make the world go 'round, but another kind of currency will soon be spinning around Charm City—the BNote.
The money is modeled after similar concepts tried in dozens of other areas, like Roanoke, VA's, Nokies; the successful BerkShares in the towns of the Berkshires, MA; and the Ithaca Hours in New York, a currency note representing one hour of labor by any sort of craftsperson or contractor.
BNotes are designed to keep local folks spending their money at locally owned businesses. Shops in the BNote network can offer change for a purchase in BNotes, which compels customers to spend their BNotes—you guessed it—locally.
"It became apparent to me this was something I really needed to help make a reality," says Jeff Dicken, executive director of the Baltimore Green Currency Association. "There's a need for economic alternatives and local currency really makes people stop and think about where they're spending their money."
In the works for nearly a year, the new currency is debuting this month (check out kick-off events and BNote details at baltimoregreencurrency.org) with the first BNotes (valued at $1 and $5) being distributed by businesses in Hampden.
The area was chosen for the launch because of the many small businesses, relative geographic isolation that makes the currency easy to study, and the number of young people moving there.
"We liked the idea of keeping money flowing within our neighborhood," says Patrick Ito, co-owner and chef of McCabe's, one of the businesses using BNotes. "Hampden has kept out a lot of corporate business and this can help keep it that way."
Selected shops in Mt. Washington, Woodberry, and along Harford Road are also getting in on the ground floor.
Dicken, 44, works in IT during the day but has always had an interest in green efforts, community sustainability, and localization. To ensure a smooth start, he's in touch through a Google group with the other U.S. towns that have tried so-called complimentary currency, or are planning to.
"We want to share the best practices and not have to reinvent the wheel each time," he says. "And locally, we're getting a great response. Residents and businesses are all over it, which is very heartening."