The Corvallis HOUR Exchange Celebrates 10 Years

Membership Continues To Grow

by Justin Bolger

“The world is a mountain. What we do is a shout. The echo comes back to us.”
— Rumi

At least it should — even economically. Do you hear the echo? Where does your money go? Beyond the business names, I mean. Do the people matter to you?

The Corvallis HOUR Exchange wants you to invest in the people and the community — your neighbors and your home. Why? In part, so everyone can feel the echo from the money they spend. How? By using a local currency called HOURS.

Created from scratch in the Spring of 2002, they launched with 33 members. The goal has been to create a sustainable local economy through the use of local currency. They call it HOURS as a reminder of why money has value: It’s a person’s time, skill, and energy.

Alana Kenagy, outreach coordinator for the HOUR Exchange, is an artist. You can find her work in a few stores around town. She even has the occasional show on display. But it’s HOURS that make it a business.

“It’s given me a lot of income with my art. It provides an audience and a good way to advertise on a small scale.”

Her biggest sale was with Karrisa Boyce, a woman she met through the program. It was during the holiday season when she asked Kenagy to see all of the pieces she had available, so she filled the room with art and let Boyce browse. According to Kenagy, about 80 percent of her gifts came from that one exchange.

Where does she spend her HOURS?

“I get a lot of food and beverages — repairs and maintenance. I got my bike repaired at Cycle Solutions. I eat at Fireworks a lot. I get dance lessons. I’m working on getting a massage from every single one of the massage therapists listed,” said Kenagy.

Some businesses accept hours as partial payment, for instance Browser’s Bookstore accepts HOURS as payment for 50 percent of the regular price, a system a number of the storefront business members use.

“We ended up with way too many,” said clerk Gerry Rouff. “We had nothing to exchange them for.”

“[Members] are pretty helpful though. They’ll come in to ask for HOURS as change,” responded employee Jannette Brinkley.

To make it more viable on a citywide scale, they need more people to get involved. They want more diversity in their members, so people have more to spend their HOURS on.

There are currently 100 members, according to Christina Calkins, the program advisor. That’s 100 ways to spend HOURS — a 27 percent increase over the last year. She says that currencies like this are more prevalent during recessions, which explains the rise in public interest.

HOURS account for $14,621 of the local economy. Their primary goal is to be responsible for one percent of local trade by 2020, working in tandem with the U.S. Dollar.

“I’d like to see 10 percent, but I don’t know how it equates,” said board member Ben Smalls. “It seems like a very good solution, and to my surprise, there’s not more involvement from the community.”

They host various events around Corvallis, such as their seasonal gatherings. These are a way to introduce interested community members to the program. It’s a place they can ask questions and listen to individual experiences from those already involved. Members can take this opportunity to network, making new friends and professional relationships. The next will be their tenth anniversary celebration on March 10 from 7-9 p.m. at the Old World Deli downtown.

Board member Cheryl Good said, “It’s small groups sharing what they do and what they need. You put a face with the name.”

Other events include guest speakers, usually on the subjects of sustainability or local economics. On March 8, Charles Eisenstein, author of “Sacred Economics,” in room 121 of Kearney Hall on campus at 7 p.m.

Good would like to see connecting between members made even easier by adding a directory to their website (hourexchange.org). Currently, the directory can only be found in HOUR Trader, their quarterly publication.

“Couldn’t we make a phone app for that?” asked Good. “We’re establishing relationships, which is something the dollar doesn’t do.”<

She said that it’s not only for business, it gives you an excuse to develop your hobbies and help others do the same.

“My sewing and mending skills got better. My community was investing in me becoming a better seamstress. That’s what happened to me, so I know it happens to other people. It empowers them to participate.”

“That’s why this is such a good investment, because it’s us. It’s what we make it. Your involvement makes it happen,” said Smalls. “It’s better than insurance, it’s assurance. It’s something I own.”

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