Buy local movements are happening across the country from Richmond to San Francisco. Cities and towns know that getting people to shop in their community means more tax revenue for municipal budgets. The City of Montrose in western Colorado is in on the game too.
It’s a cold morning in downtown Montrose. The lobby at the visitor center is full of people standing in line, trying to get their hands on Montrose Bucks. They’re large checks that can only be spent at businesses within city limits.
"The Montrose Bucks program is a shop local incentive program," says Jennifer Loshaw with the Montrose Office of Business and Tourism. "And it’s really an incentive to keep your dollars local."
Loshaw says when people shop locally it benefits the community.
"The local businesses generate taxes that are utilized in a number of ways throughout the city from roadwork to education," she says. "Everyone benefits from the tax collection overall."
The Montrose Area Merchants’ Association ran the program until the city took it over last year.
Mary West is at the visitor center purchasing her Montrose Bucks. She’s here today because the city is offering a deal.
"Actually it’s for every $100 you get an extra $20 so if you spend $200 you get $240" she says.
West thinks the deal is a good way to incentivize people to shop in town.
“We prefer to shop locally just to help support our local businesses, which helps support our tax revenue and schools," she says. "And, I think it’s wise for every community to try and support their own communities."
Loshaw says about 85 percent of the businesses in Montrose accept the bucks.
"You go through the store and purchase what you need [and] at the register you present the checks," she says. "The store runs the checks and treats them as cash."
Loshaw says the bucks are available year round. And sometimes Montrose will do a discount on the currency.
"We’ll do a promotion [around the holidays], but then the other promotions throughout the year really depend upon what’s going on with the economy," she says.
The city does lose money when it offers a deal. Montrose will take a $30,000 hit on the current promotion.
Loshaw says the city budgets for the discount and sees it as an investment not a loss.
"It benefits in that it's sales tax that is generated that may not have otherwise been generated," she says. "So if someone is going to purchase something from a downtown store versus going online at amazon.com then that’s a win-win for the community."
Tim Bush co-owns Chow Down, a pet supply store in Montrose. His business accepts Montrose Bucks.
"I think it’s a great incentive for the community," he says. "You are going to get a lot of people out on the Main Street area and see more foot traffic. So it get’s people to kind of see what Main Street has become and where it’s going all the while spending money."
Aside from local sales helping out tax revenue, Bush says it makes for better shopping.
"It’s tough, but I think that a lot people are actually realizing that with those online stores you don’t get customer service," he says. "You’re not getting the personalized service that you get when you do come into a store like ours."
Back at the visitor center, Loshaw says the idea of a local currency isn’t unique to Montrose.
"Throughout the country and across the state there is definitely a shop local push and drive," she says.
Other Colorado cities and towns like Grand Junction, Steamboat Springs and Ridgway have similar programs.