The Town of Cochrane is hoping to expand a currency project in 2018, that’s aimed at supporting the local economy and promoting the town, according to its economic development officer.
Last May, the town started to circulate ‘Cochrane dollars,’ that could be used in around 30 local business as a substitute for a regular Canadian dollar. Since then, the program has expanded to include 56 shops.
“It’s like Canadian Tire money, but you can spend it in a whole bunch of stores,” Robert Kalinovich, the town’s economic development officer said in a recent interview.
“One Cochrane dollar is one Canadian dollar.”
Kalinovich said the Cochrane dollar should be looked at as a voucher or gift card, rather than a legal currency. Residents and businesses can go to a bank in the town to exchange Canadian dollars for them.
“We printed 100,000 bills with a value of $400,000,” Kalinovich said. “We want to get as much of that out into circulation as we can.”
Roughly 22,000 Cochrane dollars are currently in circulation. Some businesses hand them out to customers as promotions or shopping incentives, with the idea that people will return to the community to spend them.
“We were immediately interested, because it’s a great promotional way of keeping money within the town,” said Susan Ransom, the owner of Krang Spirits, a distillery in Cochrane.
“I give out Cochrane dollars and they have to take them and spend them somewhere else in town.”
Ransom said she has given out hundreds of dollars in the local paper bills to customers since the program’s inception. University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe said they must get into the hands of people from outside the town, to have a large impact.
“They’re a novel tool to market Cochrane, and to the extent that the dollars are given as gifts to people outside the town who might not otherwise visit, these may induce them too,” said Tombe in an e-mail.
“If they merely trade among locals then they are simply substituting Canadian dollars for Cochrane dollars and will have no real effect.”
“We want to get people used to giving them as gifts, birthday presents, Christmas presents,” Kalinovich said.
“It’s a great way to show your support of the community and local businesses.”