Cochrane Dollars: Local currency supports thriving economy

by • September 27, 2017 • Economic development, Economy



Cochrane Dollars

Cochrane has its own currency, and it’s going to use it to create a thriving local economy.

This spring, the Town of Cochrane, ATB Financial and the Cochrane Monetary Foundation (a not for profit group of local business owners) launched Cochrane Dollars. 100,000 bills were printed with a total face value of $703,000, and more than 40 area businesses have already signed up to accept them. Unlike other local or complementary currencies, this paper bill comes with a 1:1 Canadian dollar rate – it’s not so funny, this money.

It’s a fact, for every $1 spent locally 30 more cents stays in the local economy, so when 45 percent of Cochranites are traveling to Calgary for work (and perhaps grabbing their groceries in the City), the potential economic leakage is significant.

“Cochrane Dollars have real value to business owners and consumers. ATB’s support of the project ensured that $1 Cochrane Dollar is the equivalent of $1 Canadian Dollar, which removed any risk for participating business owners. The big picture is continuing to educate consumers about their purchasing power to stimulate local economic activity,” explained Economic Development Manager Mike Korman.

“As a member of the Calgary Regional Partnership we collaborate to compete, and our region has consistently been one of the fastest growing in Canada over the last decade. But we also want to keep our dollars local and prevent leakages to surrounding economies,” said Mayor Ivan Brooker, Town of Cochrane.  “We hope the Cochrane Dollar will contribute to the wealth of our community today, and in generations to come.”


Alberta CARES for local economies

Growing local economies is on the radar of the provincial government, and the Cochrane Dollars initiative was one of the first seven funding recipients of the Alberta Jobs Plan Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) program. $30 million dollars has been made available over two years for locally developed projects that promote long-term economic growth and diversification.

“So much of Alberta’s economic strength and entrepreneurial drive is centered in our province’s smaller cities and towns. Every region of Alberta brings multiple strengths to our way of life, whether in energy, agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism, or in other areas. This funding will help communities with common interests tackle economic development projects that they might not have been able to individually. Through these projects local leaders are working together to grow and diversify our economy, and make life better for Alberta families,” said Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade.


The making of money


If you too would like to ‘make’ money, create jobs and diversify your economy then here’s a little play by play deduced from Cochrane’s extraordinary example.

Start talking – The Cochrane Dollar was not born overnight, interested parties began these conversations seven years ago! According to Korman “In 2010 a group tried to do the same thing, but it fell flat when Council didn’t approve. A few years later we launched a Buy Local campaign, which evolved to a Made in Cochrane initiative and is today our Proudly Cochrane platform. The momentum from the buy and support local messaging paved the way for a legitimate conversation about currency.”

Right resource, people and sense of urgency – A clear map of where you want to go with a community-based economic development project is one thing, creating the conditions for others to join in, another. According to the Tamarack Institute, community-led projects require three conditions: resource, the right people and a sense of urgency.

In Cochrane’s case support from ATB Financial, the timing of Alberta CARES funding, forming of the mission-critical Cochrane Monetary Foundation and a collective interest in stimulating local economic activity brought this long-foreseen project to life.

“As a business owner it was attractive because eventually Cochrane Dollars have to make their way back into the community to be spent, we’ve already had several tables pay for their cheques outright in Cochrane Dollars,” said Chris Heier of Half Hitch Brewing, and President of the Cochrane Monetary Foundation.

“We are learning from each other as we turn innovative community-led ideas into exciting local realities that strengthen our economies and support a thriving region,” said Bob Miller Regional Economic Prosperity Lead, Calgary Region Economic Development Alliance – Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP).

We hope you’re as excited as we are to see Calgary Region municipalities breaking new ground in creating community-based economic development solutions!


The Cochrane Dollars project received funding from the Alberta Government’s Community & Regional Economic Supports (CARES) program. Cochrane Mayor Ivan Brooker (left) with Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous at the launch event on May 19, 2017.

One Response

  1. As a Cochrane resident since 1981, I’ve seen the town go through (and continue to go through) growing pains as it has expanded in all directions. The close connection to Calgary is, by design, both a blessing and a detriment as Cochrane is often a bedroom community for Calgary workers who often bypass the town’s core centre. However, Cochrane also draws Calgarians looking for a break from the city and Cochrane’s expanding features will help that draw.

    Cochrane has struggled to keep its “small town identity” and local businesses have also felt the pressure of the larger chains moving into new retail spaces.

    Cochrane Dollars definitely has potential and it will be up to our local businesses to align with the cause and strengthen the impact it can have on the local economy, strengthening B2B relations and tourist activity in town.

    Congratulations to those who have brought the Cochrane Dollars initiative this far!
    Keep up the good work.

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