Love it, hate it or be apathetic about it, our small-town communities around Tahoe and Truckee rely on the many tourists who frequent the region and spend their money at our local businesses and restaurants — a concept growing in importance as we continue to meander through the economic recession that began to cripple our region and the real estate industry in 2007.People who are unwilling to accept this reality really need to step back and look at our various shopping centers and downtown corridors and count the number of small businesses that have shut their doors during the past four years. No doubt about it, this area is struggling to sustain itself, and what happens over the next three to five years with private and public funding — and from a regional cooperation standpoint — will define the future of this unique basin.There appears to be good news on the horizon. It looks as if (fingers crossed) Joanne Marchetta and her staff at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency have really turned a corner and are working on a strategic plan that will address many of the region’s problems — moving away from petty debates of deck extensions on a private two-bedroom home and outdated code ordinances, and rather focusing on region-wide sustainability and responsible development.Other ideas and drives, while still needing refinement, are beginning to embrace a region-wide concept, including the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan, North and South shore cooperation on bringing future Amgen tours here and the upcoming Tahoe Expo on Sept. 10 at Sand Harbor State Park. Slowly but surely, we’re beginning to realize what needs to be done to sustain this region.But all this is a work in progress, and in some cases, years down the road from fruition.In the short-term, the responsibility to pull us out of this funk lies directly on us, and what better way to do that than to support your local businesses this upcoming Labor Day weekend, Tahoe’s last hurrah for summer activity before the shoulder season arrives.While you’re out and about navigating the traffic through a crowded Highway 28 from Incline Village to the West Shore, and dodging the many visitors walking Historic Downtown Truckee, think before you honk your horn in disgust at an out-of-towner struggling to park his or her SUV in a tight spot along Donner Pass Road. Restrain yourself from yelling “gaper” out your car window at the group of Bay Area residents gathered with cameras at the “Welcome to Nevada” sign in Crystal Bay.Instead, be glad they are here, spending money at our businesses. After all, that revenue, whether or not you realize it, is a big reason why we live here and can enjoy so much of what Truckee and Tahoe have to offer.And while you’re at it, visit your favorite local business this weekend and spend some cash yourself. Do yourself a favor, your neighbors a favor and this region a favor, and let’s do our best to put 2007 in our rear-view mirror.