The Story of Beardstown Bucks
In 2010 the establishers of the Buy Beardstown campaign made a collaborative effort to use bank notes called Beardstown Bucks for use only in the City of Beardstown to preserve commerce in Beardstown, IL.
The main goal of the project was to stop the flow of dollars out of Beardstown. The Bucks were created to give the businesses of Beardstown some much needed incentive to use the Beardstown Bucks as an excellent way to promote their Beardstown business, act as a gift certificate, and encourage the owners to use them for specials and discounts.
The effort came to life when the Cass County Overall Economic Development Commission, Beardstown Chamber of Commerce and Beardstown Main Street worked with the three Beardstown banking institutions: Beardstown Savings Bank, First National Bank and West Central Bank. Backed by the three banks, the Beardstown Bucks were printed and a single bank account was used to deposit the Bucks from the businesses like a check. The paper was a blue colored check stock and had routing numbers like a standard check.
The Bucks became useable when they were endorsed by the user along with the business written in the “pay to the order of” section. The currency exchange is dollar-for-dollar from a US $5 federal reserve note value to a $5 Beardstown Bucks bank note.
Aaron Tebrinke, the volunteer GIS Technician, made an illustration using imagery and symbology that identify it as a Beardstown currency that included the Old Lincoln Courtroom and Museum, the Beardstown River Look over the Illinois River, and a historically accurate steamboat referencing the town's marine history.
The City of Beardstown's geographic information system tracked the use of the Beardstown Bucks. Each month the Chamber of Commerce would share the account statement with the volunteer GIS department to add the amount of Beardstown Bucks that were used at each business. After a few months a pattern emerged of what businesses were using the Beardstown Bucks.
Tebrinke used the pattern of sales to develop a simple color coded system of 14 types of businesses for a map with a pie chart to display what the people of Beardstown were using the Beardstown Bucks for. The businesses categories were: Attractions (4 businesses), Banking ATMs ( 3), Food & Drinks (32), Emergency Services (14), Health & Beauty (36), Shopping (76), Industrial (13), Utilities (3), Organizations (77), Education (9), Marine (5), Gas Stations (4), City Government (17) & Services (148).
In order of use, the types of businesses categories that used the Beardstown Bucks in 2010 were: food & drinks (15 businesses), shopping (14), health & beauty (6), gas stations (4), services (4), city government (1) and organizations (1). Attractions, banking, emergency services, industry, utilities, education and marine had no participation.
The participation level of the businesses in 2010 that wanted to use the Bucks was better than expected. At the beginning of the project 107 out of 364 businesses in Beardstown chose to support the program. Most of the organizations accepted the Bucks for use as well. Many were kept by collectors and given to people as gifts during the 2010 Christmas season.
As a result of this project the Buy Beardstown group was able to use pull factors and the tracking system results to show improvement. The efforts of three banks and three organizations that focused on the economic health of Beardstown did make a difference. In 2010, area residents spent an additional $138,084 more than they did in 2009, all at businesses within Beardstown. The largest increase of sales kept in town were in the automotive, gas station, drug and retail areas.
The committee used the results, and the GIS map, to focus more on the local businesses and how they can make the most out of using Beardstown Bucks for their benefit with discounts and specials. At the end of 2011 the Beardstown Bucks returned for a second season.