Now, with over 4,000 Chambers of Commerce in the United States alone, it’s hard to imagine a time in our local City when Chambers didn’t exist. Joining the local Chamber of Commerce is often a natural order of doing business these days and a viable avenue for community members to connect.
If we take a look back to the past, we will understand the significant role of Chambers and even find answers to questions we may have always wondered such as:
- When was the first Chamber of Commerce founded, and how did its policies and practices evolve?
- Why do many business professionals now look to the Chamber for support?
United States Chamber of Commerce Founded
The first known instance of the “Chamber of Commerce” was developed by the City Council in Marseilles, France, in the late 17th Century!
While the first Chamber of Commerce in the United States originally started in New York in 1768, it wasn’t until 1912 when the United States Chamber (US Chamber) was officially founded as a National Federation in Washington DC. Created by President William Howard Taft, he established the Chamber to counterbalance the labor movement of the time. Codes also needed to be developed for governing trade, and in these early years, the Chamber’s role had nothing to do with legislation.
For a time frame of reference, The first President of the United States Chamber of Commerce was Harry A. Wheeler, Vice President and Director of the Union Trust Company, beginning his Chamber role a mere two weeks after the great Titanic sunk.
President Taft’s Vision for the Chamber of Commerce
Taft had a vision for business. His vision is evident through an address he gave to his constituents during an annual US Chamber meeting in 1913, which stated:
“I am confident that with your marvelous growth, the sound principles upon which you have established your association, and the great opportunities that present themselves, the future of this organization will show it to be one of the real non-official factors in the progress of our country.”
Marvelous growth was correct! In the first year of the US Chamber organization, they brought on 297 commercial organizations and 165,000 firms and individuals. This growth continued and expanded with Chamber policies, influences, and programs, to name a few.
Public Opinion and Policy
Chambers began to influence public opinion and policy significantly. For example, in 1925, the US Chamber was instrumental in supporting President Calvin Coolidge’s legislation to contract for airmail services nationwide. Shortly after that, the US Chamber raised $1,750,000 for flood relief in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
As Chambers began to arise in more State and local governments after World War II, a socio-economic influence became prevalent in the Chamber underpinnings. Businesses championed housing, unemployment, and education opportunities, to name a few. President Kennedy spoke to the Chamber about the importance of the free enterprise system in honor of the US Chamber’s 50th anniversary.
By the 1970s, Chamber youth programs began to blossom to educate and promote the free-enterprise system. Programs quickly turned to Advocacy, such as tax reform and health care, now-defining factor to Chambers nationwide,
The United States Chamber of Commerce Continues to Grow
President Taft was correct in the vision he shared way back in 1913; as of today, over 100 years later, the US Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as State and local chambers and industry associations. Additionally, there are over 43 Policy Priorities, including Cyber Security, Space Policy, and Environmental Affairs.
Currently, Suzanne Clark is the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce. With women first being appointed to Chamber committees in 1944, the United States has progressed a long way towards gender equality.
Social Media and a Globalized Chamber
Speaking of progress, the globalization of the World Wide Web with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have transformed business exposure in the modern world of Chamber organizations.
Now more than ever, a successful Chamber of Commerce understands and knows how to maximize these powerful media platforms to serve their members, elevating and strategizing member promotions and organizations.
Jurupa Valley Chamber of Commerce Values Its Members
We at the Jurupa Valley Chamber of Commerce understand the roles of best business practices, community engagement, and public opinion. Businesses look to us for support, and we give it to them. In addition to our monthly networking meetings, eNews, dynamic social media outlets, non-profit news page, and signature events, we are PROUD to uphold our Mission Statement to our collective members:
“Promote and enhance the business community of Jurupa Valley and the residential community it serves. Assist our members in a safe and successful execution of operations, both in the immediate needs of today and the long-term needs of the future.
Guest blogger: Mary Webb