Adirondack Cooperative Economy

We are a new community of concerned citizens and businesses that wants not only to boost our economy but bring about a shift in our attitude towards money.

Saratoga Brain Storming Session – updated

flying ideas

The ideas were certainly flying fast and furiously at our marketing meeting on thursday February 7 at the Uncommon Grounds Cafe in Saratoga. Thank you Dan for the wonderful drinks, bagels and ambiance!

Nine people gathered to plan our upcoming membership drive: Linda Marcella (Warrensburg Town and School Boards), Anna Busser Erik (founder ACE), Flo and Todd Olden (Our Simple Life Farm in Warrensburg), Patty Campbell (Transition Town Movement Glens Falls) Terri Jamison (Documents and Designs, Lake George), David Delozier (Ecolocal Magazine) and Jessica Perillat (dynamic young force for sustainable building, gardening, health, and finance). As special guest from Schenectady Michael Tracy Ireland shared his vast wealth of knowledge of everything from the worlds best educational system to steady state economies, marketing, finance, legal and governmental structures and community sustainability.

Our idea is great…how do we get this message across to all the businesses in our communities? We are offering a beautifully designed currency which will attract more customers to local businesses, keep money circulating locally, and thereby enriching and benefitting everyone. We are also networking between like-minded people, advertising for eachother by word of mouth and on this website which has a rapidly growing following and supporting the development of sustainable, healthy towns. We are encouraging creative ideas and new initiatives of meaningful activity.  The idea WILL work for everyone when the critical mass of participation is reached. How do we get there? Is it the chicken or the egg?

We discussed the following topics at length:

Structural form of our organization: “Form follows function” We have decided to continue with our present status until it is clear what functions we wish to have. We have our IRS number, board, and bookeeping. Until we reach an income level over $5,000 we do not need to worry. If we need the use of a 501(c)3 organization as a “corporate pass through” for grants or donations we can ask Sustainable Saratoga or the   Council of Community Services of NY State (Doug Sauer – Michael has the connection), both of which are 501(c)3s. Michael also recommends working with BALLY (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies).BALLE is the fastest growing business alliance of values aligned entrepreneurs, business networks, and local economy funders in North America”. They are a great resource. Anna says she has contacted them and hopes to join as soon as we can afford the $900 membership fee. They would enable us to become a 501(c)6 under their 501(c)3 umbrella.

Relationship of “Mother Organization” (ACE) to local “Daughter” economic communities: It was clear to all concerned that all funds (memberships etc) should flow to the mother organization which would provide marketing materials to the smaller local economic daughter communities(such as Glens Falls and Saratoga). We will all put our collective efforts into making Warrensburg work and then help the other local groups. To a certain extent each group will organize its local marketing autonomously.

Use of our income: Question: What are we going to do with our income once we have a lot? Answer: Well, we are a long way from having too much. Right now we are not even covering the cost of printing our currency. We are all simply donating our time and money to making this work. The accounts and budget are available for anyone to see. However, once we do have more than will cover our basic costs we plan to pay hired staff and invest in marketing such as developing our web presence, printed and other materials. We also plan to give micro-loans to local initiatives either with local money, US$ or a combination of both (of course always without interest). Anna referred to a well established german local currency model which has a full time hired staff of 50 and even own their own businesses such as food coops and rental property. Some local currencies create their own alternative health insurance. All our funds will go towards benefitting the community. Now we are in need of funds.

Fund Raising ideas: One idea is to approach the bank which is committed, through the “Community Re-investment Act” to supporting local endeavors. Linda will look into this. Also the town has an employee that will write grants for $10 an hour. Terri talked about “Biker Bucks”, a special limited edition of our ADK Bucks which could be included in a “welcome packet” in local hotels and motels in Lake George during the very popular “Americade”. It could be “A Buck a Beer” We would sell the Bucks to the hotels that could sell them or give them to their customers. They would also be collector’s items. Terri will work on the feasability of this. This idea could also be used for other events like the Bicentennial or Biggest Garage Sale in the World. The next idea was introduced by David Delozier. He brought the image of a sample ADK Buck “token” coin in copper or silver. It is no problem creating a worthless token but it is illegal to “coin” an actual currency. (see the problem with the Silver Liberty Dollar created by the Libertarians). The group also was not convinced of the practicality of using coins (heavy, bulky etc) However as a way to “invest”, a one troy ounce silver token might be interesting. It could be sold at a small mark-up over spot price of silver as a fund raiser. Anna related than Tom Greco emphasized that we must differentiate between “investment” and “daily used money”. Even if we put our money into a bank it ideally should immediately be put back out into the community. We can do this ourselves. The idea of the ADK Bucks is that it is NOT an investment but simply a measure of the goods and services of the members and needs to be kept moving. “The buck starts here!” “Please pass the buck” “We pass the buck here” were some slogans we thought of. A final fund raising idea came up later from a random visitor to the website. He suggested we put a “donate” button on the site and do some “crowdfunding” Well…as of today (Feb 8) we have a donate button connected via PayPal to our bank account. I will certainly be reporting back on that!

Marketing ideas: On this subject we really got excited. Terri had the idea of a video which we could show in our presentation to stores. She thinks our presentation should be visual. Perhaps we could involve the Warrensburg High School Video Department, which is good. David has a video camera but would need some music maybe from Rocco and/or Bill. We were imagining Bucks walking through town bringing prosperity, maybe people wearing antler hats, buck target practice stands, inflatable bucks. We need to make the ADK Bucks “hip” Linda talked of the Greenwich townwide “mosh” We could have an ADK Buck night. Stores could have promotions, giving out bucks. Attached to it with a stick-it it could say “not sure where to spend this? Go to”: (list all the businesses in a tiny format). Also we need to work on our website, making it more interactive and automated. A business needs to be able to access their own site with a password and change their offers/photos/open times etc. Everything would automatically adjust itself – businesses move to the right town or category and enter the “search” function. For this we need more funds.

Approaching Businesses: The key is getting a criticial mass of businesses involved, accepting the Bucks. It must become mainstream. How do we get there? The “early adopters” are hard to get. But we already have 40 members. That is significant. They are customers. We need sponsors, supporters. Let us start with what exists already. Perhaps we can cooperate with the Chamber of Commerce. Linda says they are in the process of reorganizing themselves and may cooperate at a later date, not at the moment. She also spoke of the Warrensburg Town Economic Development Committee which is developing a survey which asks several questions which could be relevant for us: Which businesses do you go to locally? Which ones do you use out of town? Why do you shop out of town? What businesses would you like to see coming to town? This could tie in with a Buy Local Promotion in which we could play a role. Linda spoke of a business alliance like the Tri Lakes Business Alliance in Chestertown which meets over coffee at 7 AM every Friday. Michael asked whether the ADK Cooperative Economy could be such an alliance.

There are town, county, and regional economic development organizations that need to be coordinating/networking what the local needs are through a trickle up system. The old way was to invite some big corporation to come in to “save” the town. Today we need to find ways to save ourselves, Michael spoke of the book, “Limits to Growth” and the new book, “2052” We cannot exist in this state of exponential growth. We need to build a steady state economy in order to survive. (We asked him if he would return and give us a lecture on this subject and he said yes, perhaps at our next ADK Bucks meeting on March 19) If the whole world were to live like americans we would need three earth planets to exist.

We need to get 7 key, well respected businesses involved and then develop a peer to peer, business to business, collaborative promotion. To target which businesses to approach we need to make two lists, side by side. On the left we list the businesses most likely to join, on the right the most utilized businesses. To calculate priority businesses for ACE to approach you assign a weight or value as a basis for ranking them. Let’s say you assign a value of 5 points to each business that is seriously like to join ACE and a similar value to each business that is highly utilized. So, let’s say Stewarts was likely to join, so they get a 5 in that column, but only moderately used, so they get a 3 value in the second column. Then by multiplying 5 x 3 you get a total value of 15. Let’s say TOPS was given a 2 for likely interest in joining but a 5 for heavy local utilization. They would garner a total score of 10. You would do this ranking and calculation for 10-20 businesses and then finally rank order the businesses by their total score. Thus, using the scale suggested, a business who scores a 5 for likely to join and a 5 for local utilization, could receive a score of 25 and probably be ranked highest (#1) on your overall ranking. Thus you would definately want to pursue this business with an overall 25 score. 

Then we need to develop a promotion packet with what we already have and a one page of “bullet points”/talking points/fact sheet as guideline for the presentation. We can address the what, why, how. Why did you yourself join? How did you benefit? Ask the business owner why s/he is still reluctant. This must already be available. There are so many local currencies already. We already have our brochure, our Adirondack Journal article and now an EcoLocal article, a membership application and a business survey which asks the business which businesses they buy from and sell to. We need to research the business, think like the business and know them better than they know themselves and tailor the approach to each business. Wine and dine them. We want to get the businesses involved, accepting the bucks, in any way most comfortable to them, accepting any amount in any way they choose. For a cafe it might simply be one buck per order or purchase. For another a percentage. For a third at a particular slow time, or for a particular item. We can ask the business how much they spend a month locally. $1,000 ? OK then, that is how much they can plan to accept in ADK Bucks per month. They can spend their Bucks on promotions, thank yous, bonuses to employees. With bonuses a small grocery or meat shop could motivate their employees to buy from them rather than at a cheaper supermarket.

Linda likes to present the Bucks as re-usable coupons. Businesses need to understand what is in it for them. They need to understand how the buy local multiplier effect works. Information on this is available online. Fostering local economic activity creates wealth.

We could get a CSA involved using ADK Bucks (for instance the Main Street Ice Cream Parlour in Chestertown which is well established and want to add a CSA to their restaurant). We could “fund” their CSA with a loan of special design Bucks. They could sell the Bucks as CSA shares for US$, perhaps alternatively usable for meals. Or we could approach Whitefield’s Farm which needs funds to remodel two houses.

We then discussed regional businesses like Stewarts. Anna and Linda have a contact there. They might be a key in getting ADK Bucks spread throughout the entire region. We need also to approach the Grand Union/Tops since so many people shop there. They could use their ADK Bucks to pay their employees in part.

All this needs to be formed into a business plan (which we are working on now) which can be presented, for instance for grants. We need to add target goals and dates. We need to get this out to the members before the next meeting so we can finalize it then.


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This entry was posted on February 8, 2013 by .

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