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Go as ‘mom and pop’ as you can

Berkshire Money Management bonus guidelines set a remarkable Berkshire standard that other companies can follow.

To the editor:

Berkshire Money Management’s Allen Harris last week announced that all eleven of his employees would receive a $10,001 bonus. Last year’s bonus of $2,500 came with the instructions “go local.” This year’s instructions were even more specific “go as ‘mom and pop’ as you can.”

Not all companies can offer such a generous bonus. But Berkshire Money Management bonus guidelines set a remarkable Berkshire standard that other companies can follow. Harris understands the positive effect when money recirculates in a community.  Even just hundred dollars spent locally compounds in value, sauntering slowly back and forth between homes and shops, stopping to chat over coffee at Rubi’s, deciding on a warm pair of socks at Barrington Outfitters, and finally choosing the Mayflower Farm black fleece at Berkshire Grown’s Winter Market before leaving the region. The hundred dollars spent at a big box store barely tips its hat before jumping the bus out of town.

And Harris also understands how our locally owned stores make up the fabric of our community. They offer our high school students their first jobs. They support Multicultural BRIDGE’s diversity training to build tolerance and understanding. They sponsor events at the Mahaiwe Theater to ensure entry for all who wish to attend.  And during Covid 19, they are generously partnering with Greenagers to provide a safe outdoor learning environment for kids of all ages.

A sure way to keep the spending local when making bonuses is to issue the payment in BerkShares, the region’s local currency. Any person or business can trade federal dollars for BerkShares at nine branches of three local banks – Salisbury Bank and Trust, Lee Bank, and Pittsfield Cooperative Bank.  95 federal dollars will get you 100 BerkShares. Record the five percent as a transaction fee earned rather than as a fee paid. Record the bonus payment to employees just as you would any cash payment – one BerkShare equals one dollar.

A list of the 400 businesses signed up to accept BerkShares is at the BerkShares website (https://berkshares.org/business/search) Or you can find a pocket-sized directory at the banks when you pick up your BerkShares currency.

Not listed yet? It is free and easy to do online at berkshares.org, or call the office 413 528 1737. Expect to provide a short description of your business.

Don’t forget you can also make donations to local nonprofits in BerkShares. They will send you a letter acknowledging your donation at par with federal dollars. They can spend it for an advertisement in the Berkshire Edge or for membership in the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce or the Non-Profit Center of the Berkshires. Or a staff member can switch out federal dollars one-for-one with BerkShares and use them for shopping for the family.

Only-in-My-Dreams-Events in South Egremont is taking use of BerkShares up a notch with a special Black Friday promotion encouraging folks to keep their shopping local. Everyone coming to “The Shop” on Main Street, after making a purchase, can open one of the 25 doors in the wooden advent calendar. Behind each door is a 1, 5, 10, 20, or 50 BerkShare. Spend your found BerkShares in The Shop or at any BerkShare business.

And Only-in-My-Dreams has created fun ways to support favorite local nonprofits with “Purpose Packs.” These are carefully curated, themed gift boxes of locally produced goods, tied to local nonprofits. Ideal gifts for those hard to please. Proprietors Oskar and Mike would be pleased to mail them for you. Every purchase engenders a $25 donation back to the associated nonprofit.

To-date there are Purpose Packs for Multicultural BRIDGE (Restorative Justice), BerkShares (Keeping It Local), Berkshire Theatre Group (Keeping Theater Alive), and Berkshire Immigrant Center (inspired by Immigrants), and more are on their way!

A big thanks to Berkshire Money Management for setting a high bar in supporting our small locally owned businesses. And a big thanks to those same businesses for the creativity and good spirit that characterizes the way they have pivoted to stay open for us during this pandemic.

Susan Witt

Egremont

Susan Witt is the Executive Director of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, founded on the ideas of economist, Fritz Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

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