The Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 100th Anniversary in March of 2014.
The 250 business and professional men who met at the Hotel Bentley on March 30, 1914 to form a local Chamber of Commerce realized it was time to organize to facilitate growth and prosperity for central Louisiana. At this juncture, they knew they had something to sell—a great little city and a region with a strong, emerging business and agricultural base. The Alexandria Business Men’s League, the Progressive League and the Merchant’s Association were the foundations for the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.
The headline on the front page of the April 3, 1914 edition of The Alexandria Daily Town Talk read, “Alexandria’s Awakening: Great Step in Organization of Chamber of Commerce.”
The first Board of Directors of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce was elected on April 6, 1914. W. D. Haas, a physician and banker was elected as the first president of the board. A goal was set of attracting 1,000 members. As a tribute to the founders, that goal was finally accomplished in November of 2013.
In late April 1914, the chamber board announced that it had chosen the slogan from among those submitted in a community-wide contest. “Unity, Opportunity, Alexandria,” was the winning slogan penned by Mrs. George Bauer.
The next step for the founders was a membership drive, set for May 6, 1914. The Town Talk advertised it as Alexandria Boosters Day.
At nine a.m. on May 6, a chamber booster blew a wild cat whistle at the local power plant to kick off the membership campaign. Boosters gathered at the chamber office at Alexandria City Hall where they put on promotional buttons and gathered membership cards and banners that read, “I’m an Alexandria Booster. Ask me why.” The chamber boosters proceeded to Third Street to fall in behind the brass band leading the enthusiastic boosters through the downtown streets as shop keepers and businessmen gathered to enjoy the show.
The boosters said, “We are out getting new members for the Chamber of Commerce, so knowing your progressiveness in all matters, we could not pass you up.”
The Pineville Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1951. When it was realized five years later that the twin cities needed a harder hitting team, the Chambers of Commerce of Alexandria and Pineville merged.
The organization operated as the Alexandria-Pineville Chamber of Commerce until the late 1990’s, when the name was changed to the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce to match the regional approach of economic development initiatives.
The Chamber points to a record of cooperation with elected officials and other organizations and individuals. At times, the Chamber was the prime developer of key initiatives over the past century. But often times, others were the prime movers of programs in which the board felt were worthy objectives for the Chamber to pursue.
The organization has changed its inner workings to meet new challenges, even as is being done today. The projects change, but the goals do not.
Over the past 100 years, the Chamber has played an integral part in the history of Alexandria, Pineville and the central Louisiana region. Much has been accomplished by the Chamber and its volunteer leaders and staff, but the need for the Chamber’s efforts is unending.