President’s Message: There are a lot of different electronic gadgets available today, and being a gadget-type guy, I like just about all of them. One particular device, however, I had no desire to own: the Kindle. I maintained that position all the way until approximately 9 a.m. on Christmas morning … when Santa brought me one.

As most of you know, the Kindle is an electronic reader, or e-reader. Instead of buying physical books at a bookstore, you can buy electronic books online to read on this device.

The best part? You get books instantly, the moment you want them, in the convenience of your home. You can even order books in advance of their release; they download automatically when available.

As I sat playing with my new Kindle Fire — how can you not like something with the word “fire” in the title? — I immediately started to feel guilty. I try to not buy “stuff” online or just simply for convenience. I know how important customers are to our Maine-owned businesses, so I try to buy my goods and services locally the vast majority of the time.

My new toy, it seemed, was conflicting with my inner desire to do right by Maine businesses.

Three weeks after this dilemma first surfaced, I am happy to report I’ve found a happy compromise: I’ve come to the conclusion not all things need to follow the philosophy “all or nothing.”

I use my Kindle to browse the web, read email, and watch a few videos (I’m hooked on the Vampire Diaries). I also have electronically subscribed to the magazines that I like to read, such as the Harvard Business Review. I also bought a book I wanted, one I couldn’t find at my local bookstore.

As someone that likes to fold and highlight the pages of my favorite books, my intention is to still frequent local stores and, for the most part, buy most of my books there. I’ll kick back for a while, like I usually do, and drink a coffee and eat a scone.

You see, for me anyhow, buying local is more than just a purchase; it is an experience. I enjoy bumping into people I know, as well as meeting new people. I like trying new coffees, teas and munchies. By looking through the bookshelves, I find interesting topics that I would have never known about otherwise. Without exception, I learn something new on these little adventures.

I am very concerned that in some places the experiences of buying local and integrating with the surrounding community is going away. In our busy world and the desire to free up more time, convenience is king. Online shopping has grown by leaps and bounds — some reports state as much as 30 percent over last year.

As a consequence, taking the time to shop at four or five little stores is being replaced by a one-size-fits-all mall, superstore, or the Internet.

While convenient, let me tell you there are real consequences to this shift in buying patterns.

I have seen several local establishments close already this year — with rumors several more are calling it quits. These are stores that paid taxes, hired local workers, and either owned or rented storefront space in our local communities. When they shut down, the impact is felt somewhere. The town coffers get smaller, tax revenue goes down, and unemployed workers collect benefits until they can find a new job.

Balance. With a little effort, for the most part, we can have it both ways. Go down to Portland and have a special time; buy those hard to find bargains on the Internet; but please, buy the vast majority of your needs and wants locally.

If you haven’t done so already, I hope you make 2012 your year to buy local. By keeping local businesses strong and vibrant, we are not just helping them, but helping our towns, our schools and, ultimately, yourself.

You’ll probably spend the same amount of money shopping, but the sense of community you get in the process can’t be bought; it can only be experienced in local communities and stores.

Upcoming events: The Chamber’s Annual Meeting and Dinner is Thursday night, 4:30 to 8 p.m., at Thorne Dining Hall on the campus of Bowdoin College. The evening includes a member-to-member exhibition, networking and social hour, dinner and a short business meeting. Then sit back and enjoy Maine humorist Gary Crocker. Sponsors for the evening include Parkview Adventist Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital and Comcast Business Class. You must reserve now by calling 725-8797.

January’s Mid Day Chambers presenter is financial adviser Virginia Caruso of Edward Jones in Brunswick. The program is free and meets Jan. 19, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Topsham Public Library, Foreside Road, Topsham.

Members in the news: The chamber welcomes two new Topsham businesses: Trisha’s Gown and Dress Boutique, located in the Topsham Fair Mall (www.shoptrishas.com), and Melissa Stockford, independent representative for SIlpada Designs, beautiful sterling silver jewelry (www.mysilpada.com/melissa.stockford).

The chamber proudly serves businesses in the following communities: Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Brunswick, Dresden, Edgecomb, Georgetown, Harpswell, Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath, Westport Island, Wiscasset and Woolwich.

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