December 16, 2012

Editorial: Golden and growing


---- — The North Country Chamber of Commerce has evolved from a small, Plattsburgh-only organization into a regional lobbying force to be reckoned with.

On its 100th anniversary, we salute the organization for its tenacity, advocacy and ever-expanding reach. Members and local officials gathered at West Side Ballroom recently to celebrate the golden anniversary and look back at the chamber's growth from 258 individuals to 4,200 member businesses.

Most people today are familiar with the chamber's recent growth and progress. But a look at its first 50 years (from a booklet distributed at the anniversary celebration) shows its connection to many interesting local developments:

1912: Dues are $10 and 258 people join the new Plattsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

1914: The chamber helps establish the city's first bus line: Suburban Transportation Motorbus Co.

1915: Student Military Training Camp requirements are guaranteed to Capt. Edwards by the chamber, the beginning of "The Plattsburgh Idea" which would train 29,000 people at Plattsburgh Barracks through 1917.

1916: The Witherill Hotel is packed with 150 people as chamber members use Plattsburgh's first transcontinental lines to speak with people in San Francisco.

1917: Chamber members contribute money to build a Glove Factory facility.

1918: Support from the chamber helps establish the Grand Isle Ferry Company.

1921: The chamber asks "all good men to come to the aid of their city" to fix up, paint and clean Plattsburgh.

1923: The chamber gets involved in negotiations between the new Physicians Hospital and contractors demanding a raise from 75 to 85 cents an hour.

1925: The chamber endorses construction of a new Bridge Street bridge.

1930: The chamber advocates for modern street signs at all major city intersections.

1934: The chamber officially protests the gas-tax bill.

1936: "Welcome Visitors, Plattsburgh Greets You" is approved for a chamber banner across Margaret Street welcoming Canadians for Dominion Day.

1942: Merchants are encouraged to help the defense effort by selling bonds and stamps.

1945: The chamber urges businesses to remain closed on Aug. 15 in celebration of V-J Day.

1946: Champlain College opens but its 30 staff members and families can't find enough housing, and the chamber asks housing owners to register sites.

1952: The chamber tries to bring together a community divided between wanting an Air Force Base but fearing it will mean the loss of Champlain College.

1955: Talks are under way to develop an industrial park to attract Canadian businesses.

1957: The Parking Committee helps establish a new 125-car parking lot in the city.

1959: The first St. Patrick's Day Irishman of the Year Breakfast is hosted by the chamber.

1961: The chamber and Plattsburgh officials agree to form the Champlain Development Corp. (which evolved into what is today The Development Corporation) to provide funds to promote economic development.

A few times during that 50 years, the chamber almost dissolved. But the perseverance of business leaders who knew its potential community impact kept it alive and growing.

Now it is one of the strongest and most influential chambers in New York state. That's a nice century of progress.