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Detroit Free Press

In a tough economy, more businesses are turning to bartering to make ends meet.

Jason Iras, vice president of Naturalistic Landscapes in Shelby Township, said his business has increased 20% since joining TradeFirst.com two years ago.

In exchange for landscaping services, Iras said his company gets materials on trade such as mulch, trees and topsoil, maintenance on company vehicles -- even a treadmill. "We decided to give it a shot. It brings in business that we normally wouldn't get," he said. "We get a chance to do a job before our competition down the street that is not in trade."

Oak Park-based TradeFirst.com was founded 30 years ago. Then it was called Trade Exchange of America. It matches its 5,000 members in Michigan, Ohio and Florida and stretches dollars by trading services, products and meals."

"Businesses in TradeFirst's member rolls are promoted to other members through ads on the Web site, daily emails, weekly faxes, monthly newsletters and in the annual membership directory", said Frederic Detwiler, founder and president. "Some of the greatest market-share advantages occur during a soft economy," he said. TradeFirst acts like a bank, keeping track of deposits and withdrawals in each member's trade account.