The Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting is traditionally an occasion to review the organization’s current state and its plans for the future.
This year’s event, set Tuesday, Feb. 6, will also look at the chamber’s past, as it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
“It’s amazing to reflect on how much we’ve grown as an organization over those years,” said executive director Shawn Conrad.
The organizational meeting for the chamber was held Nov. 16, 1977. On Dec. 8, the chamber elected its first board of directors and later that month, it elected its first officers, including Tiney McComb as president, Larry Edger as vice president and Richard “Ike” Stage as treasurer. Stage, now serving his fifth term as mayor, was the chamber’s second president and one of its founding members.
“A lot of people don’t know that we were actually the second chamber in Grove City. There had been a chamber in place in the 1920s,” Stage said. “This one has stuck around.”
A new chamber was needed in the late 1970s, he said.
“We were filling a void in the community in terms of economic development,” Stage said.
The chamber took on a lead role in its early years in attracting businesses to the community, he said.
“When I was president of the chamber board in 1979, we wrote our first letter to a business to convince them to come to Grove City,” Stage said. “That was Payless Shoe Stores. How humble it was when you think of all the businesses that have come to the city since then.”
As the city’s economic development effort has grown over the decades, the chamber’s role has evolved but has remained vital to those efforts, he said.
“They continue to be part of the pro-business culture we have set here in Grove City,” Stage said.
A strong chamber is valued and expected by businesses when they consider moving to and staying in Grove City, he said.
If in its early years the chamber may have served as a sort of club, it has evolved to meet the changing needs of its members brought on by a shifting business climate, Conrad said.
“Businesses want to know what the tangible benefits of chamber membership are,” she said. “We continue to look at how to add or enhance those benefits to give them a return on their investment of being members.
“We don’t want to rest on the success of our first 40 years,” Conrad said. “We’re looking at how to have the next 40 years be just as great.”
Grove City is leading the way in central Ohio by publishing a monthly digital magazine, Conrad said.
“It gives our members an additional way to reach one another and the community at-large,” she said. “It gives us another opportunity to spotlight some of the amazing businesses and the things they are doing in our community.”
The chamber is in “a very healthy position right now,” Conrad said.
“We are financially strong and we are growing,” she said.
In 2016, the chamber added 77 new members and it added 79 last year, she said. Chamber membership now stands at 600.
When it formed 40 years ago, chamber membership totaled about 100.
The annual meeting will include a tribute to the chamber’s founders and recognition of past presidents.
New board members will be inducted for both the chamber and its foundation.
The chamber president for 2018 is Shirley Spellman of Heartland Bank and the foundation president is Greg Dawkins.
The chamber’s award recipients also will be announced, including the 2017 Business of the Year, Ambassador of the Year, Heart of the Chamber and Spirit of the Chamber winners.
The annual meeting will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at Pinnacle Golf Course, 1500 Pinnacle Club Drive. The cost is $20 for chamber members, $25 for nonmembers.
Registration is available at the chamber website, www.gcchamber.org.