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I write this column now after having just completed the 44th annual Holiday Tree Lighting. This is a great community tradition as the Lake Oswego Chamber partners with the city to officially kick off the holiday shopping season. For many it is the beginning of a month-long celebration of Christmas. But for everyone it is a time for reflection, families coming together and the spirit of giving.

It is also a time of hope and as we all know, we especially need that hope today with our current economic climate. I can't remember a time when there has been so much uncertainty in the workplace. We all understand that things will eventually turn around and our economy will again begin growing. The concern is how bad will the economy get before that turn around begins. Being the optimists that we are in business, we'd like to think we've pretty much hit the bottom.

The Chamber of Commerce exists to first support its members. But in the big picture we serve the entire business community. It only makes sense then that as an organization we promote shopping our local businesses first for goods and services. Lake Oswego has an immense variety of businesses that can satisfy most, if not all, of a consumer's needs or wants.

Now more than ever, we need to think of our local businesses first before traveling outside the area. For some businesses, this Christmas season will determine whether or not it will be around in 2009. As a community we cannot afford to let that happen.

Not only should the community support its local businesses, but chamber members should be supporting other chamber members. We have started a weekly Friday e-blast that lists special promotions our members are offering specifically to other members throughout the holidays. This is at no charge to the member who is advertising by the way. We shop local and we support each other's business. What better way to live out this season of giving?

The DBDA is again offering its Passport program, offering discounts from many of the downtown retailers. I urge you to take advantage of all these opportunities that will benefit you and will support our local businesses, too.

We have another reason for optimism as we look forward to working with our new Mayor Jack Hoffman and a city council we believe has the capacity to solve the many challenges before it. Our congratulations go out to Mayor-elect Hoffman, and new councilors Sally Moncrieff, Mary Olson and Bill Tierney.

On behalf of myself and my staff, I wish all of you a blessed holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. See you in 2009.

Jerry Wheeler is the CEO of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce.

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