March 2018 will mark the launch of the Prescott-Russell Chamber of Commerce’s (CCPRCC) Chamberdollars program.

The initiative will take the form of custom currency, mainly ten and twenty-dollar bills marked with the CCPRCC’s seal.

The goal of this currency is promoting local shopping, as the bills will be redeemable in many businesses located throughout the CCPRCC’s municipalities: Casselman, The Nation, Russell and Embrun.

“The CCPRCC is doing quite well! We’re strong and our membership is increasing exponentially every year. This year, we’ll have over 150 members. Five years ago, that number was closer to 60,” said Julie Brisson, CCPRCC Board Chair.

The Chamberdollars initiative was born out of financing from the Prescott-Russell Business Alliance (PRBA), aimed at stimulating local purchasing. Part of these funds was used to develop and launch the initiative as well as print the custom bills.

“It’s the first time we try this,” said Brisson.

“Our mission is to encourage local business. A lot of residents travel to Ottawa daily, so it’s easy for them to shop outside the community.”

Brisson added that shopping elsewhere doesn’t necessarily represent a lack of interest in local businesses and the community. For her, it’s all about making the local experience easy, more accessible and interesting.

“Chamberdollars can only be spent at participating businesses owned by CCPRCC members. Our members aren’t forced to participate, but the response was unanimously positive.”

A comprehensive list of participating members should be made available on the CCPRCC’s website.

How it all works

For both business owners and consumers, using Chamberdollars won’t represent any extra cost, administrative or otherwise. A twenty-Chamberdollar bill will be worth twenty dollars; a dollar-for-dollar value.

“There are no added fees. At the end of the day, when doing business with a Caisse Populaire Nouvel-Horizon, the participating merchant can simply add the Chamberdollars to the daily deposit. We’re not making money off of it.”

The initiative was created in partnership with Caisse Populaire Nouvel-Horizon and its three branches (Embrun, Casselman and St-Isidore).

When asked what the Caisse Populaire had to gain from all this, Brisson answered:

“Nothing, really. Their logo will be on the bills. They became partners to support the idea. They are taking care of managing all this and aren’t receiving a percentage. If anything, the time they put into it cost them money.”

For now, Chamberdollars will only be redeemable at the three Nouvel-Horizon branches, but Brisson stated that “this is only the beginning.”

“We have to start somewhere and no one has an exclusive. If things go well and there’s demand, we’re open to the idea of expanding.”

Once Chamberdollars are available, those interested will be able to acquire them at participating businesses, branches of Caisse Populaire Nouvel-Horizon and various CCPRCC events.

“A good example is Embrun Ford. They have a system through which they give $150 if a vehicle if purchased through a referral. They recently told us they would now be giving the amount in Chamberdollars. That’s just one example. We have a wide variety of participating businesses, from A&W to local mechanics, even CO-OP Embrun,” said Brisson.

The CCPRCC’s goal is the keep the whole process simple. Brisson stated that, over the next couple of weeks, they will be making sure that members have everything they need to get started (including labels indicating that the business is part of the initiative).

“After that, we’ll start building public awareness. We’ll be giving Chamberdollars away through our various events and investing in getting them out there as much as possible. If all goes well, we have the funding to print more bills.”

Brisson is confident that the initiative will be well received by the public.

“For a lot of people, Chamberdollars will be received as a gift. That’s free money that is sure to be reinvested in the community.”

Chamberdollars should be available mid-March, 2018. Anyone interested in learning more should visit the CCPRCC’s website.