Federal Reserve-free currency Mountain Hours is gaining ground in Summit County, with 70 businesses signed up for the initiative since its introduction earlier this summer.
The form of barter - measured in hours, not dollars - is about halfway to local creator Wayne Walton's goal of making it a reliable form of currency in Summit. With 10 restaurants, a grocery store, five coffee houses and three mechanics on board, users are able to pay for some of their everyday needs with hours instead of dollars, he said.
Walton plans on taking the currency virtual in a few months, which will enable users to utilize their cellphones for payments. He's confident the addition of the "same technology and convenience as the dominant system" will attract more people.
Those online transactions will also allow Walton to track how often it's being used, and who are the biggest users.
"The more transactions you have, the more reliable the system is," he said.
Here's how it works: One "mtnhour" is equal to $10 (There are four denominations: 1/10 hour, 1/2, 1 and 2). Local business owners agree to accept the currency, and are given 200 mtnhours right off the bat. The hours are then used at other businesses around Summit that accept the currency, thus encouraging local spending and keeping everything within the county. The money is debt- and interest-free.
So far, Walton said he's getting positive feedback from users.
"When we sign businesses up, I would say half of them just hug us," he said. "With so many of the things going on with politics today, they feel disempowered. With this, they feel empowered."
Hours user and Cool River Coffee House and Bakery owner Stephanie Bergstrom appreciates that there are plenty of other businesses signed up for the system, and said it gives her an opportunity to barter with retailers and service providers she hasn't before.
Bergstrom trained her staff in the currency, and estimates the coffee shop receives hours as payment every two or three days. Cool River used 40 mtnhours last month, something Walton said the shop got an award for (which was purchased at another participating business).
Dredge Restaurant owner Steven Rockne likes the idea of not using bank notes, since he feels the Federal Reserve is part of the problem with the country right now. He uses the hours for food at Cool River and The Crown Cafe, and receives them for payment at his restaurant.
Walton hopes to see similar systems in place around the country, and wants to help set them up. He was in Tampa, Fla., (his hometown) during the Republican National Convention, where he spread the word and helped create a new system, Clear Water Hours, which already has 25 businesses on board.
Similar networks are already in place across the country. Durango has Durango Hours, and there's a system sprouting up in Denver. Ithaca, N.Y., has successfully used its local currency, Ithaca Hours, for 20 years.
All of the issues happening politically and globally are just symptoms of a monetary system that doesn't serve the people, Walton said.
"This is the fundamental solution that will fix all the problems," he said. "Once people control that locally, it will fundamentally change our prospects for the future."