Chambers of commerce have a global history which, according to Wikipedia, dates back to 1599. The first was founded in Marseille, France, followed 65 years later by another official chamber in Brugge, then part of the Spanish Netherlands. The worlds oldest English speaking chamber of commerce was founded right here in the US of A in 1768. Where? Where else… New York!
Of course, the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce doesn’t go back quite that far. You may not know however, that the history of our local chamber dates back 132 years to 1891! As the name indicates it’s a chamber which serves area cities besides Stillwater, those being Bayport, Lake Elmo and Oak Park Heights. According to their Patch profile, the chamber offers members a variety of promotional opportunities, resources and tools to support local businesses and provides resources and hosts events to enrich the lives of area residents and visitors.
Now you may wonder, “How hard do they really work for us here in the Stillwater area?” That’s a reasonable question. Business is not run the same way it was 100 years ago. The tools are out there for anyone to be a successful business without being a chamber member. The fact you are reading this in an online newspaper, on a worldwide Internet where you can access businesses around the world from your La-Z-Boy proves it. Don’t think though, that today’s chambers are antiquated organizations. Our local chamber is run by up of a group of dynamic, hardworking, “think-outside-the-box” individuals. Tour Main Street had the privilege of seeing this first hand last summer.
We were invited along to see, and of course record, some of the events put on by the chamber in just over 8 weeks. This included the Rivertown Art Festival, Special Olympics, and Community Symposium at the Water Street Inn related to all of the changes taking place with the new bridge. Additionally, we attended a number of chamber “mixers” where networking and business to business relationships were built in an informal atmosphere. They even held their first “cross border” mixer with the Hudson Chamber! Having had no real experience with chambers of commerce, we were impressed by the hard work and dedication of not only chamber employees, but the active members serving in positions of responsibility on the board. Though we didn’t have our full range of audio or video gear on these visits, we recorded quite a bit of footage and put together a little highlight film of these 8 weeks last summer.
Since we spent that time with them, they have added a new logo and location, returning to downtown after a three year absence. With 99 new members added in 2012 they passed another milestone of over 400 members! They really do believe in a bright future for our area as they continue to collaborate with all types of local stakeholders which love the St. Croix Valley as much a they do. Tour Main Street wishes them all the best in their new location! Be sure to stop on by at the Chestnut building and say, “Hi!”