I talk a great deal when speaking and writing about the POWER of shopping LOCAL. I don’t just preach it. I practice it. By now, I hope everyone in the Lake Gaston region understands how important it is to spend our dollars at home and how those dollars continue turning over and over in our communities in the form of tax dollars, wages, donations and disposable income. However, there is another VALUE to shopping locally that I haven’t discussed before. I have an open door policy here at the Chamber, both literally and figuratively. I can count on one hand the number of times my door has been closed in my 2.5 years here. I am often away for meetings, but when I’m here, I love it when Chamber members stop in to talk. Last week Lewis Fields stopped in to see me, and we had a great conversation, part of which was focused on the vast expertise of local business owners. That expertise is the other VALUE of shopping LOCAL. Our local businesspeople are the most knowledgeable about the products and services needed for this area. Lewis’ son Adam is obviously very well informed about wakeboards and other watersports equipment. When a person purchases equipment from Adam, he or she can know with confidence that Adam is going to recommend the right product for the age and skill level of the rider. That discussion got me to thinking about the many other product and service experts we have here in the Lake Gaston region. Who better to build a dock for you than a Lake Gaston regional dock builder who understands the lake, the lay of the land, the permitting, how you wish to utilize your dock, etc.? Who better to construct a lake home than one of our fantastic regional builders? They know the topography, understand how to maximize the lake views from as many areas of the house as possible, and can make both the front of the house (facing the lake) and the back of the house(facing the road) both visually appealing in different ways. What about decorating your lake home? There are no better people to help you than local designers. They will sit down and talk to you about how you want your lake home to function and then select the best design and decorating options to fit your lifestyle. How about purchasing a boat or personal watercraft? Our local boat dealers know these waters. They can talk to you about your activities on the water and how you plan to use the boat in order to make the best selection. The same goes for servicing these products. Why would you look elsewhere? Choose LOCAL for marine service, winterizing and storage. Why go out of our region to buy a car? Do you think that you are saving money in larger cities like Raleigh or Richmond? You’re not. Our Lake Gaston regional car dealerships have amazing inventories of both new and pre-owned vehicles and offer top-notch service close to home. Shop LOCAL and access the expertise that we have here. Sure, you can shop outside of our region, but I seriously doubt that you will save money on the product or service. You will spend time and money to travel for no gain. If something goes wrong with the product, you have to go through that headache all over again. I purchased a Stihl chainsaw for my husband from Ace Hardware. He has used it and enjoyed it so much since I gave it to him. However, the last time he used it, he had a hard time starting it. Because I bought it from Ace Hardware (even though it was a product I could have purchased elsewhere), I brought it to their service department at 5:30 p.m. on one day and had a call that it was ready at lunchtime the next day. The technician not only fixed the problem but also took the time to explain what could have caused the issue, so that it hopefully won’t happen again. It’s simple. Spend your money WISELY by spending it LOCALLY. Local businesspeople rely on good reputations and word of mouth to continue to do business. They KNOW the area. They care. Show them some love back by supporting them.