Greetings, I'm Pam Hammond, president of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and co-owner with my husband, Don, of Paddington Station in downtown Ashland.

Greetings, I'm Pam Hammond, president of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and co-owner with my husband, Don, of Paddington Station in downtown Ashland.

At our last Chamber board meeting, I shared with the other local business owners and community leaders the importance of shopping locally and supporting our community. They encouraged me to share with you some of my thoughts and our collective commitment to patronize Ashland businesses especially during this holiday season.

Additionally, to make it easier for you to shop locally and be green, the Ashland Chamber continues to produce gift certificates for purchase that are good at numerous Ashland businesses and usable throughout the year. (Note: Gift certificates are available online at www.ashlandchamber.com or come to our Chamber office at 110 E. Main St.

I think it is important to note that for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 remains in our local economy; for every $100 spent at a big-box store, only $14 stays in the local economy. By choosing to spend your dollars in our local businesses when you can, you will be "voting with your wallet" for a better environment, economy and community.

There are many well-documented benefits to our communities and to ourselves from supporting independently owned local businesses when shopping. I realize, of course, that it is not always possible to buy what you need locally, but we can always ask ourselves to think local first. Please consider some reasons as stated by sustainableconnections.org when making your purchases this season:

Where we shop, eat and play helps define our community. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of our town. When you buy from an independent, locally owned business rather than a nationally owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of our community. We use local banks, accountants, repair people, printers and the list goes on.Local nonprofit organizations receive an average 250 percent more support from small business owners than from national corporations. We want a better community.Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This creates less sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.Collectively, small local businesses are the largest employers nationally and in our community, providing the most jobs to our residents, and often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know their customers. Let us know what you need. We will listen. Local businesses are owned by people who live in your community and are more invested in the community's future and volunteer countless hours to hundreds of organizations.Local businesses require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services compared with nationally wned stores entering the community. We are good stewards of our resources.Small business is the best way to ensure innovation and low price over the long term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers guarantees a much broader range of product choices.A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

At this time of year, we at the Ashland Chamber wish to thank you for your support of our community throughout the year and want to tell you that you are making a difference whenever you support our local organizations, school groups and businesses who define the character and heart of the town we all love. We wish for you a wonderful holiday season!

Pam Hammond is president of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.