New Local Currency Coming to Ithaca in May 2015

A comparison of a regular dollar bill to an Ithaca Dollar.

A comparison of a regular dollar bill to an Ithaca Dollar.

In late May 2015, it will become possible for Ithacans to make payments at certain businesses simply by sending a text message.

Ithacash, a newly formed company,has created a local currency for anyone who lives in the Ithaca area. Scott Morris, the CEO and founder of Ithacash, said he hopes to build a healthier and wealthier community through this new currency.

“They [local currencies such as Ithacash] offer a fallback plan for when U.S. dollars, for one reason or another, aren’t around to deliver what we need,” Morris said. “But in the meantime we can use it to generate a lot of social good, economic wealth, commercial wealth, and much more.

Ithacash launched in March 2014, and about 100 people have helped with the project in the past year. Not only does Morris hope to reach out to regular shoppers in the Ithaca area, but he also said he hopes to generate interest from tourists and local college students.

“We’re interested in working in the tourism sector to offer the unique experience of going to all the colorful places that make Ithaca what it is.”

Comparison to Old Currency, Ithaca Hours

Ithacash isn’t the first local currency in our area. Ithaca hours was founded in 1991, but the currency has since become defunct.

An Ithacan local, Elizabeth, said that although the last form of currency known as “Ithaca Hours” fizzled out, she has high hopes for Ithacash.

“I don’t see why Ithacash won’t have a positive effect on the community it general.” Elizabeth said. “I think people in Ithaca will take to it pretty quickly and it will be used very well.”

Scott Morris, CEO of Ithacash, shows off the newly formed Ithaca Dollars.

Scott Morris, CEO of Ithacash, shows off the newly formed Ithaca Dollars.

“Our ambitions are set on serving all of the Finger Lakes,” Morris said. “Ithaca Hours only went to a 25 mile radius outside of Ithaca, which essentially is just Tompkins County.”

While the only form of payment was through the physical Ithaca Hours bills, Ithacash is now offering an online form of payment through its website, “Ithacash Online.”

Brett Bossard, the executive director of Cinemapolis and supporter of Ithacash, said he thinks the new currency will be a good step up from Ithaca Hours.

“It uses technology in a way Ithaca Hours never did,” Bossard said. “I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be like Ithaca Hours and it definitely was not.”

Goals of Ithacash Company

Morris said Ithacash has over 80 companies committed to accepting this local currency including The Center Café, Jack’s Grill, Classic Optical, the Ithaca Voice and Cinemapolis. Bossard, thinks Ithacash will have a good effect on the local economy overall.

“We’re non-profit, so I think it seemed like a really good fit to be a part of something that was about keeping a strong local economy.” Bossard said. “It seems like Scott and the folks are really plugged into the second wave of local currency that’s happening around the world.

However, according to Morris, Ithacash has not reached their desired goals yet. By late May, he hopes to have 100 companies accepting payment through Ithacash.

“One of our other goals is we want to create and issue $1 million Ithaca Dollars during the first year.” Morris said. “The other part is we want to create the currency and deploy it in different kinds of community service; specifically food security.”

With 1300 families in the Tompkins County who live off of a lack of food, Ithacash hopes to bring in new resources to address this problem properly.

The main goal through Ithacash is addressing the social issue of how money plays a role in society now. Morris believes that using a local currency will bring more relational value and meaning, allowing more personal exchanges throughout the town of Ithaca.

Written by Angela Kim

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