Taking the economy into local hands

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Idaho native creates an organization to promote and develop a completely self sufficient region within the United States.

Michael Ellis, founder of Deseret Region, says his family inspired him to create the organization because he wants them to be protected in what he calls “the trying times ahead.”

[/media-credit] Deseret units are growing in popularity within Utah; many local businesses are accepting these in an attempt to combat the economic downturn.
The Deseret Region is developing and organizing many projects involving infrastructure, economy and agriculture to increase the self sufficiency of the region. One of these projects is the Deseret Currency Association which promotes the use of a local alternative currency.

“Local alternative currency is used the same as regular dollars and you can use it at any participating store,” Ellis said.

Ellis says the currency, called Deseret Units, allows people to save money on purchases and the stores using the currency will get more business.

Ellis says strengthening the local economy through these projects would protect the Deseret Region in case of natural disaster, drought or economic downturn.

Ellis says the goal of Deseret Region is to crehfate a self-sufficient region, “so if there are economic troubles, we can rely on ourselves.”

“The power system across America is very weak. It wouldn’t take a lot for it to go down, something like a solar flare could do it,” Ellis said.

“This is a model that could be applied all over the country. If one area takes a hit, another area will stay strong and can even help out,” Ellis said.

Deseret Region is not the only organization to promote the use of a local currency. New Economics Institute, Boston, Mass., created the BerkShares local currency program in 2006.

BerkShares are a local currency for the Berkshire region of Massachusetts  Currently, there are 400 business who have agreed to accept the currency.

Alice Maggio, BerkShare coordinator, says there are now 120,000 BerkShares in circulation.

“BerkShares were born because these local bankers saw the merit of supporting local businesses,” Maggio said.

Maggio says BerkShares are just one way to support local economy.

“We need more local production for more local needs. If every region is producing for itself, then you’re going to have more equal distribution of wealth,” Maggio said. “It’s creating strong livelihood for people.”

David Hansen, professor in the economics department says a local currency is unlikely to have a big impact on the economy.

“You have to get enough people to back the currency and the people backing it have to be trustworthy,” Hansen said.

Hansen says if there is a shortage in the supply of money and the money isn’t getting into the hands of the people a local currency could be beneficial.

“There’s a possibility a local currency could have a small effect. But I see it possibly affecting local pride more than causing much economic benefit,” Hansen said.

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