Chamber of commerce more than networking

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Chamber of Commerce: an association of business people for promoting commercial and industrial interests in the community.

That's what my Merriam-Webster Dictionary says anyway. It's too bad neither Merriam nor Webster had the chance to attend a Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce (SVCC) luncheon, Santa Breakfast, Tour de Peaks bike race or other event, else they'd have written a much better definition of chamber than the one they did.

Here, the chamber is a group of people who use their business experience and talents to help fellow members succeed so they and their employees can buy homes; send kids to college; have health insurance; donate to charities; and enjoy some free time to make friends, pursue hobbies, take vacations and volunteer for worthy community causes. The chamber also produces events and undertakes projects to help us fulfill our mission: to promote and maintain a healthy economic environment within the community. This year we'll do that namely by bringing in more tourists through partnerships with various organizations and more outside-the-Valley marketing.

I'm Jennifer Lynham, the new president of the SVCC and owner of Lynham Ink, a writing and marketing company in North Bend. The chamber's 240 members work really hard to "maintain a healthy economic environment" here, but I believe that every citizen and every business - chamber member or not - can contribute to the financial health of our communities.

How? Shop locally.

Why? Because in the long run it's your town's infrastructure that you invest in when you do. A study by the Valley Trade Connection, a nonprofit project in Massachusetts, showed that "a dollar traded at a locally owned store is usually spent between six and 15 times before it leaves the community." This is called the "multiplier effect," and is a basic economics 101 principle that has been proven over and over in communities around the globe.

For example, you spend $25 at the local gas station. The gas station owner pays a clerk, who pays his landlord, who pays her chiropractor, who gets coffee from the espresso stand that advertises in the paper. All those businesses pay taxes on the profits; tax dollars that go into your city's coffers and pay for your roads, police protection and food banks. Your community stays well-kept and safe, and it can provide needed services for its citizens.

Furthermore, that gas station owner sponsors the town fireworks that your family enjoys every August. That clerk walks to work and keeps one more car off Interstate 90 at 7:30 a.m. every day. The chiropractor's married to your daughter's teacher and her salary enables that teacher to live within the community. Your neighbor owns the espresso stand and pays her gardener with latte profits so you get a manicured view out your kitchen window. The local paper publishes priceless photos of your son and his teammates celebrating their first win of the season. None of that would be possible if we didn't support local businesses.

I think if you look around, you'll be pleasantly surprised how much "stuff" you can actually buy from local businesses. To find what you're after, go to www.snovalley.org and click on Chamber Directory. Or look in the Banana Pages or other phone directories.

I'll be crafting this column regularly for the next year or so, spewing information that's relevant to a wide variety of Valley Record readers. Please feel free to send column ideas to Jennifer@LynhamInk.com. I'm so looking forward to my term as SVCC president, and to hearing from you as the year progresses.

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