Originally posted at the California Economic Summit Blog

It’s a question many of California’s diverse regions are trying to answer: how to inject life back into their local economies? The city of Davis may have found a solution–it’s called Davis Dollars.

It’s the brainchild of Nicholas Barry, a UC Davis graduate. He launched it in May 2010 as a way to keep the money local.

“I’ve read about other currencies in other parts of the country. It’s a great idea for Davis because it makes sense if you’re looking at it economically. It’s also good community building because people are interacting and involved with one another,” said Barry.

Davis dollars can be purchases at a one to one ratio with U.S. dollars and are accepted at more than 70 small businesses including restaurants, a hotel and a law firm.

“There have been a lot of studies breaking down how much money actually stays in a community. For every dollar spent at a big box like Target, only 15 cents stays in the community. If you spend money at a locally owned place, 60 cents stays local. But 100% of the Davis dollar stays local,” said Barry.

Right now, more than $4,000 worth of Davis dollars is circulating.

The idea is catching on. Why not help the economy? In fact, it’s the reason why the Davis Food Co-op jumped on board about a month ago. It is the latest and biggest business participating.

“It’s brought some excitement to the store. We are all about all things local, it’s something we take pride in and put all our energy into. It’s also what our customers want, so it we decided to accept davis dollars,” said Brad Cacciatore, front end assistant manager of the Co-Op.

“The first day we accepted it, we had 7 bucks, it’s definitely picking up. Just the other day it was around 50 to 60 bucks. It’s growing, slowly, but it’s growing,” said Cacciatore. “In fact, when one customer sees another customer take the Davis dollars out, it sparks interest and gets the conversation going.”

Communities across the country, including Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have their own money. In California, there are more than a dozen. It’s a big hit in the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco called Bernal Bucks.

Barry is excited about the future.

“It’s extremely flattering the amount of interest this has generated. I hope Davis dollars becomes the standard acceptance of currency for most of the businesses in the area, why not keep spending local.”