A Pharmacist's Prescription For Economic Aid

Druggist Danny Cottrell didn't wait to see how federal stimulus efforts will help his hometown of Brewton, Ala. His own plan uses $16,000 worth of $2 bills to demonstrate the value of spending locally.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

President Obama, take note. We're about to find out how economic stimulus works on a small scale. It took place in tiny Brewton, Alabama. That's where pharmacist Danny Cottrell decided to hand out $16,000 in cash to his 24 employees. The catch? They had to donate part of it to charity and spend the rest at local businesses. Danny Cottrell is here now on the line. So that worked out to about how much per person you handed out?

Mr. DANNY COTTRELL (Pharmacist, Brewton, Alabama): Well, we gave $700 to our full-time employees and $300 to our part-time, and we gave it to them in $2 bills because we wanted not only my employees, but the people in Brewton to see the importance of shopping locally. I can assure you, $16,000 worth of $2 bills...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COTTRELL: Has caught people's attention in Brewton.

BRAND: You have a population of around 7,500?

Mr. COTTRELL: Yes.

BRAND: So what did people spend the money on?

Mr. COTTRELL: Well, we did ask them to spend 15 percent on some kind of charity or for somebody that was in worse shape than they were. And some of them bought clothes; some bought pet feed. I have - one of my employees needed a couple of mattresses, and he checked the prices around and found a couple of places where they were the same price so, you know, he bought one from each place. So the nice thing was they went in a lot of businesses they had never thought to go in before because I encouraged them to spend it with local businesses, especially in the downtown area.

BRAND: Did you see any of your $2 bills come back to you at the pharmacy there?

Mr. COTTRELL: Yes, we've had quite a few of them come back, and that is very gratifying to see it when it does. I've got - one local businessman has seen a lot of the $2 bills and he's saving them up to come pay his drugstore bill with the $2 bills, and then we'll go out and spend them again. So it's been a lot of fun.

BRAND: How did you come up with this idea in the first place?

Mr. COTTRELL: Well, there was a plant in our area a few years back that was trying to make a point to the importance of their plant in the community, and they did a payroll in cash and stamped their name on all the money. And I wasn't trying to show how important my business is to the town, but I wanted people to recognize what was going on, and I decided the $2 bills was just as effective a way. So we passed out the money. I had to call a meeting, and I don't call many meeting so my employees sort of went into panic mode. I think their imaginations were running away, so they were definitely shocked when we had the meeting and they got their $2 bills, and they went to town shopping with a vengeance.

BRAND: Well, yeah, I mean, I think most employees dread those meetings these days, that they're actually going to get laid off or fired...

Mr. COTTRELL: Well, they...

BRAND: Instead of getting money.

Mr. COTTRELL: They do. Now, they want to have one next month.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COTTRELL: But I don't think that's going to happen.

BRAND: Danny Cottrell is a pharmacist who started his own $16,000 stimulus plan in the tiny town of Brewton, Alabama. Mr. Cottrell, thank you very much.

Mr. COTTRELL: Thank you, Madeleine.

BRAND: More stimulus from Day to Day coming up in a moment

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