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History

Chamber of Commerce members in the 1940s

Leading business owners in the Valley of the Sun organized the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce on November 13, 1888. Through over 120 years and a couple of name changes (it was known as the Phoenix Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce from 1973-1987 and became the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1998), the Chamber has never wavered from its original mission: to help area businesses succeed and make the Valley a better place in which to live, work and do business.

The Phoenix Chamber originally spearheaded efforts towards attracting more settlers to the Valley, building a railroad to tap the rich forest country to the north, building better roads and supplying accommodations for those who traveled here for the winter sunshine.

The following year saw the state capitol move from Prescott to Phoenix and marked the beginning of the area's citrus and agriculture industry. The Chamber of Commerce began the processing of fruits and other products to offer a permanent display for visitors as proof of what the land could produce. If agriculture were to be a permanent success of the area, water storage to carry over during the summer months was crucial. A Chamber committee studied the possibilities of building dams on the Salt River to form reservoirs for water storage, and agreed unanimously upon the present site of the Roosevelt Dam. It was through the combined efforts of these businessmen and pioneer farmers that Congress was convinced to bring into effect the plan of Reclamation to capture and hold precious water from the Colorado River.

The hauling of crops to market, along with the rapidly growing change in transportation from horse-drawn vehicles to motor travel, created an insistent urge for a paved highway system. That development birthed an expansion of the urban area, building of fine country homes, subdivisions, more schools, more people and more wealth. In addition, Maricopa County became the leader, not only in Arizona but throughout the nation, in building paved highways. The ease and comfort of traveling over paved highways brought more fine hotels, guest ranches on the city's outskirts, and an awakened consciousness to the possibilities of selling the climate to people who lived in less favorable parts of the country. This, in turn, led to the development of the National Advertising Campaign, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and supported jointly by Maricopa County and the City of Phoenix.

Among the many undertakings of the early organization was the raising of $3,000 (equivalent to $58,824 today) for the purchase of a plot of ground that is now the historic Phoenix Indian School. This group of business and professional leaders was perhaps the greatest factor in determining the location of the Arizona Territorial Capital in Phoenix. It was logical that the Capital should be located in a town where there was promise and people had the vision and energy to behold this promise.

Arizona became the 48th state on Feb. 14, 1912. After World War II the area’s growth spurt began and returning soldiers flocked to the area for its great weather and employment opportunities. Today the Valley is home to more than four million people and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce boasts more than 2,600 member businesses. The Chamber - like the Valley of the Sun - has come a long way.

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