ITHACA, N.Y. — On Thursday, Scott Morris and four other members of his company Ithacash went to The Center Cafe, ordered two sliders and two veggie wraps, and enjoyed their lunch.

And it didn’t cost them a dollar — of US currency, that is.


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Bus To Nature: Route 22

Thursday marked an important milestone for Ithacash, which aims to allow Ithaca residents to buy and sell with a new alternate currency, called “Ithaca Dollars” — Morris used Ithacash’s “TXT2PAY” system for the first time.

“TXT2PAY” will soon allow Ithaca residents to text local shops their payments directly, with the entire transaction done digitally, Morris says.

Morris, founder and CEO of Ithacash, says that the Center Cafe is the first business to accept “TXT2PAY” payments — and that he expects dozens of other shops to be ready to accept Ithaca Dollars in the weeks ahead.

“We’re on the verge of launching in earnest,” says Morris, “where anyone can create an account, have Ithaca Dollars on their phones, and pay one another with text messages.”

Morris pointed to a letter of commitment signed by more than 100 businesses and other non-profits indicating that they would be willing to offer products for Ithaca Dollars.

Morris talks about Ithacash in March
Morris talks about Ithacash in March

“People are eager to begin, to see it going,” he says. “The wait is almost over.”

Morris, who works in Rev: Ithaca Startup Works alongside the Ithaca Voice, moved to Ithaca in 2012 and has been working to launch Ithacash since March 2013.

See related: More than 55 local companies have pledged to trade in new Ithaca currency

Morris said the Ithaca Hours — another alternate form of currency for Ithaca — was an important inspiration for Ithacash, but that his organization is now aiming to do something new. (He added that Ithaca Hours will be convertible to Ithaca Dollars for those who retained the currency.)

“The Ithaca Hours model is well-known around the world due to its early success and how effectively it was organized,” Morris said. “We’re doing something that’s new and focused on simplicity and ease of use.”

Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, expressed praise for Ithacash and said he was looking forward to seeing the alternate currency being used in downtown Ithaca.

“I’m optimistic about their role in the community,” Ferguson said. “It’s been nice to see them grow and get to the point where they can launch.”

As the Ithaca Voice previously reported, Morris sees Ithacash as a way for businesses to receive value from goods and services that may otherwise not be sold.

In addition, Ithacash also aims to benefit local residents by increasing the amount of local trade; Morris says once consumers begin spending their money in a currency devoted to the area, that money will necessarily again be recirculated here, thereby increasing local trade for the overall region.

“We keep more money in our environment and in our wallets,” Morris said. “Our goal is to have people be more able to afford the things they want and need.”

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.