Chamber Turns 70!

The Greenville Business Men’s Association began meeting in 1944. First on the agenda was to vote to take on the responsibilities of the 7-man post-war planning committee permanently, which eventually would lead them to purchase the Camp Reynolds site from the federal government. Since they were going to take on the post-war planning, they voted to also take on the responsibilities of a Chamber of Commerce. Dues were set and committees established.

Among those committees was Industrial and Retail. The Camp Reynolds purchase, as well as other property purchases, was led by the Industrial Committee. It would take nearly three years for the committee to achieve their goal of purchasing Camp Reynolds from the War Assets Administration. As the purchase progressed, three individuals fronted no-interest loans to aid in the purchase. They were paid back a year later. In addition, the committee secured a pre-paid three year rental agreement from Westinghouse. A permanent GBMA committee was formed in 1950 to oversee and manage the assets of Camp Reynolds. To aid in this, a manager was hired in 1951.

The Retail Committee busied itself with cooperative promotions including advertising, Christmas decorations and shopping hours. In October 1946, the board voted to support a “Hallo’ween Celebration.”

Another committee that was formed was the Community Chest. These were being formed all across the United States and Canada to raise money from local businesses and workers for community projects. Sound familiar? Many of these Community Chest organizations would later become United Ways.

While these were the main concerns of the directors, they also involved themselves with recreation, education, housing, transportation, and veteran’s affairs.

At the end of 1947, December 8 to be exact, the incorporators met. It was at this meeting, which followed the regular board meeting, that the details of incorporation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were read and voted upon.

While the group discussed changing the name to Chamber of Commerce in 1948, the name change would take another 26 years before becoming official in 1974.

President William R. McMillen announced a new name in the 34th Annual Report & Membership Directory.

“A new name—Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce—and the excellent opportunity afforded in 1974, of working together in a true spirit of dedicated purpose and cooperation.”

One last interesting note, Ruth Martstellar was the paid “Secretary” noted in 1944 minutes for this group of businessmen who formed the association. And, it was truly all men. She would later be named Executive Secretary. In 1970, she became the Executive Director. Two years later she appears in the membership directory as an honorary member. Quite an accomplishment for a woman of this time.