One day soon, perhaps by next fall, you'll be able to walk into a store and make a purchase with cash that's unique to Asheville.
At least, that is, if the Asheville Currency Project has its way. The local group is researching ways to make a local tender work for the city and its businesses.
"We're still in the research and development phase; we're organizing," project spokesperson Amy Hamilton told Xpress. "If everything goes well, we can move forward to designing the currency and it might be out as soon as next fall."
Some of the benefits of local currencies, she said, include keeping trade within the community and encouraging the development of local businesses.
"It's a huge help with buying local, because those are the only businesses that will accept [local currency]," Hamilton said. "It's important to develop these alternatives, because the financial system we depend on is systemically unsustainable and local communities need to be resilient to the shocks it can create."
Currently, in addition to local volunteers, the project has three UNCA interns helping to gather data and research about how a local currency would work in Asheville. There are obstacles, she acknowledged, including ensuring that enough local businesses, of enough types, accept the currency.
"It's a problem, for example, if you have 50 businesses but they're all cafes," she said. "Where is the cafe going to spend that?"
But she notes that there are an estimated 4,000 local currencies worldwide — even though they are "all too often dismissed as a fringe project."
Asheville already has one version of local currency — the Local Exchange Trading System —where members provide goods or services that gets them credits that can be used with any other business or individual in the system. Hamilton says that the currency project and LETS are cooperating and if the project decides to push for a paper currency, will try to do so in a way that complements LETS.
The currency project is looking forward to the help of Thomas Greco, a local currency expert who will be giving a talk at Firestorm Cafe and Books on Sept. 29. Greco is an economist and author of several books on the topic. "He's a font of knowledge and information," Hamilton asserted. "He's got a lot of experience and can give a real boost around here."