From the Chamber Chair
Joe Scheppers, N. H. Scheppers Distributing
Remembering, reflecting, and celebrating 120 years
Remembering. Reflecting. Celebrating. Those are words that describe what we do on the occasions of birthdays and anniversaries, and the Chamber is celebrating a big one this year: 120 years.
To help us “remember,” we’ve asked some of our former board chairmen what the Chamber was focused on during their year at the helm. Look for the interview with Ralph Kalberloh, 1966 chamber chair, in this issue of Chamber Today.
Now, I would like to “reflect” a little on the Chamber’s history and its mission:
In 1893, a group of prominent Jefferson City businessmen formed the Commercial Club. Their purpose was “to encourage and assist in movements to advance the material, social and educational interests of the city.” The organization changed its name to the “Chamber of Commerce” in 1917, but its purpose remained the same. Over the past dozen decades, the Chamber has been a staunch advocate for growth and development in Jefferson City and the surrounding area.
From the very start, the Commercial Club recognized that a major key to the city’s growth and prosperity would be easy access. In other words: transportation. One of the first projects was to raise funds to build a toll bridge across the Missouri river. Today, we enjoy a pair of toll-free multi lane bridges for access to and from the north, and transportation and infrastructure remain a top Chamber priority. This past April 30th, the Chamber’s Transportation Committee hosted a barbeque and barge ride on the Missouri river (Jefferson City’s original transportation corridor) for MoDot officials and commissioners.
Although a good relationship with Government at all levels is an important activity of the Chamber, the success of private enterprise has always been the top priority. During those early years, entrepreneurs in Jefferson City produced shoes that were distributed throughout the country. The privately owned factories, however, were located inside the Missouri State Penitentiary and, in the early 1900s, legislative proposals to eliminate the use of convict labor threatened to close those factories. The Chamber led the efforts to re-establish three of those factories outside the prison walls where each operated for many more years — the A. Priesmeyer Shoe Company (later called the Tweedie Footwear Corporation), the International Shoe Company and the J.B. Bruns Company.
Later, the Chamber raised more than $250,000 to help stabilize the fledgling banking institutions in the city during the Great Depression, and also helped to establish Jefferson City as a convention center (sound familiar?) by promoting the building of the Missouri Hotel and the Governor Hotel. Seeing the need for an industrial park, the Chamber purchased and developed land during the 1960s. This planning led to the establishment of Chesebrough-Ponds (now Unilever) and more than 600 new jobs. Other business attraction projects include Scholastic, Westinghouse (ABB), and Hoover Universal (Johnson Controls).
For 120 years, the Chamber has assumed a leadership role in the community, remembering that ideas, decisions, and projects must always be geared toward our next generations for future growth. In addition to transportation and business attraction, we have also supported school bond issues, established advisory committees to study the city’s educational needs, expanded a Business-Education Partnership program, and raised scholarship funds for Lincoln University. The Chamber continues to act on the conviction that a strong educational system is necessary for community growth.
Other accomplishments over the years include efforts to establish excellent health care facilities in Jefferson City. In addition, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the local United Way, and Salute to America are all free-standing organizations that have roots in various Chamber initiatives.
Looking back on our history is important, not because it allows us to “rest on our laurels,” but because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our mission and motivate us to move forward with projects and initiatives that will continue to grow our city for the future. For me, the tremendous Chamber staff, and all of the tireless volunteers, it’s not about us – it’s about our future generations.
We’ll do the “celebrating” part of the anniversary at the Chamber BBQ and Birthday Bash on May 16. Please come out to the Jaycee Fairgrounds on that evening and join in the festivities. The BBQ starts at 4:00 pm and there will be live music in the beer garden from 8:00 to 10:30. Tickets are available at the door.
(Watch for a new Chairman's Message in Chamber TODAY the 2nd Monday of each month. That message will then be posted on this page.)