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ABBY RANDALL COLUMN: Chamber Bucks efficiently fuel our local economy

Purchasing Chamber Bucks ensures that your dollars are spent locally — whether you take advantage of the Bonus Bucks program with a gift to yourself or you give an e-gift card to a friend or family — the dollars stay in our Bemidji economy.

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We are part of The Trust Project.

For many of us, the past couple of years have validated the need to support our local businesses.

We have a greater appreciation of walking into a store or restaurant and seeing a familiar face behind the cash register.

We are taking more time to find local options to fit our needs than jumping on the internet to see what's available. We feel good about spending locally because we know many of our local businesses pay it forward.

We see their logos all over town supporting our festivals, youth sports, nonprofit organizations and the like. We are all looking for ways to incorporate local spending into our daily lives because, at the end of the day, it’s an investment into our Bemidji community.

By now, you may have heard of Chamber Bucks. Or maybe you’ve seen the window decals on the doors of our local businesses saying “We proudly accept Chamber Bucks.”

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The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce relaunched our Chamber Bucks program this past holiday season to keep the momentum going from the successful community COVID relief program partnership program called "Gifts of Hope" spearheaded by the Bemidji Chamber, Greater Bemidji, Bemidji Downtown Alliance, Visit Bemidji and United Way of Bemidji Area.

Chamber Bucks are now sold in the form of e-gift cards, meaning they are delivered via email or text message, and can then be used at participating Chamber member merchants.

No extra fees, brought to you by wonderful local sponsors you’ll recognize for their stewardship: First National Bank of Bemidji, Paul Bunyan Communications and Lueken’s Village Foods.

Anyone can purchase them as they make for excellent gifts to local Bemidjians for birthdays, holidays and special occasions. Chamber Bucks are also often purchased in bulk by employers and gifted to employees during the holidays, work anniversaries or throughout the year.

All of the 50 merchants accepting Chamber Bucks are businesses or organizations that are members of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce and can opt-in to participate.

Your favorite restaurants, clothing stores, gift shops, grocery stores and more are on the list. The wide variety of businesses accepting Chamber Bucks is also marked with window decals mentioned previously on their storefronts.

Card buyer surveys show that people spend 30% more at local businesses when they use a community gift card with 51% of card buyers trying new shops and restaurants.

And 92% of card buyers say they prefer to support their local business with a community card vs. buying with national brand gift cards.

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So far, since November, this mindset has prevailed with our community purchasing over $20,000 of Chamber Bucks to be used in our local economy.

When Chamber Bucks are purchased currently, thanks to a fantastic sponsorship from Otter Tail Power, buyers earn Bonus Bucks as well. Essentially, that’s free money in your pocket.

How does it work? Otter Tail Power, with its sponsorship, has covered the cost of the Bonus Bucks. So when you purchase $100, you receive an additional $25 on top of that to spend at our Chamber Bucks merchants.

The tiers work like this:

  • Purchase a $100 gift card and receive $25 bonus
  • Purchase a $50 gift card and receive $10 bonus
  • Purchase a $25 gift card and receive $5 bonus

If you’re not tech savvy and buying an e-gift card sounds intimidating, feel free to reach out or stop in the Bemidji Chamber office and we would be happy to walk you through the process and answer any questions.
Purchasing Chamber Bucks ensures that your dollars are spent locally — whether you take advantage of the Bonus Bucks program with a gift to yourself or you give an e-gift card to a friend or family — the dollars stay in our Bemidji economy.

The Chamber member merchants receive 100% of the value of the e-card — no hidden catch, no cost to our Bemidji businesses, just helping to keep it local.

To get yourself some Chamber Bucks, or to learn more about the program, visit bemidji.org/chamberbucks.

Abby Randall is the executive director of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce.

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