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Chamber History

Williamsport Lycoming Shamber of CommerceNovember 2010

This is the twelfth in a series of articles taking a look back at the Chamber’s history in celebration of its 125th Anniversary.  The Chamber was founded on December 15, 1885 as the Williamsport Board of Trade.

            Over the course of the past eleven months, I have written about the Chamber, it’s founding and the issues that drove our business community throughout the years.  Because this is the penultimate column in this series, I would be remised if I did not talk about the Chamber’s partner in economic development, the Industrial Properties Corporation (IPC).
            The following is a quote from a report entitled “A Picture of Lycoming County Volume 2” that was a research project of the Greater Williamsport Community Arts Council in conjunction with the Williamsport Area School District.  The researchers credited are Mark Peter Harer and Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck and the report was published in 1978.
            In the section entitled Recovery from War, the researchers write about the economic recovery efforts following the end of World War II:
            “Across the country, competition to attract new industry was fierce.  Thousands of men and women were returning from Europe, Africa, and the Pacific, seeking employment in factories which were slowing production.  Many veterans took the opportunity offered through the GI Bill to attend college or technical school to get employment.
            In order to create new jobs in the county, the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce organized the Industrial Properties Corporation whose sole purpose was to create new jobs.  The strategy was to make Lycoming County attractive to new industry and to help existing industry expand.  At the turn of the century the economy of the county had come dangerously close to collapse after the lumber industry exhausted it resources.  In order to protect the economy from collapse by avoiding dependence on any one industry, the IPC proposed to diversify industries.  Over the next two decades three capital fund drives raised $1,600,000 in gifts.  The capital is used by the IPC to buy and develop land for industrial use and to finance industrial building construction.  The Lycoming County Industrial Development Authority financed numerous industrial and commercial developments through loans to new and expanding industries.
            “In 1955, under the direction of its first commissioner, Roland H. Dunn, the IPC purchased 118 acres of land on Reach Road to develop as an industrial park.  Building shells were erected, roads were built and all utilities were connected”
            Today everyone is familiar with what is known as the Reach Road Industrial Park and while it may not be a modern industrial park with all the amenities, it still provides thousands of jobs to our community.  The report goes on to chronicle the IPC’s purchase of land throughout the County and the development of the Muncy Industrial Park in 1970.
            Although not mentioned in the report, it should be noted that the Lycoming Foundation, a private Foundation founded by many of the same Chamber business leaders who founded the Industrial Properties Corporation, has loaned millions of dollars over the course of these years as well.  The Lycoming Foundation loaned the money to the Industrial Properties Corporation and in turn the IPC loans the money to businesses to expand or located in Lycoming County.  This partnership has helped to fund the creation of thousands of jobs over the years as well as play an integral part in assisting in the funding of the Chamber’s economic development marketing efforts.  While the relationship has evolved over the years, the Chamber, IPC and Lycoming Foundation as well as the Lycoming County Industrial Development Authority and Lycoming County Commissioners continue to work together to improve our local business climate and remain true to the IPC’s mission of creating jobs.