Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce - About us

Chamber History


Williamsport Lycoming Shamber of CommerceJune 2010

            This is the seventh 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.

            On May 25, 1960 the Greater Williamsport Chamber of Commerce as it was called then, conducted its 75th Annual Meeting and Banquet at the Lycoming Hotel (now the Genetti of course).  I thought it would be interesting to review some of what occurred that evening because it truly was a gala event.  The evening opened with this introduction by the President of the Chamber Board, Robert T. Lawrence:
            "Ladies and Gentlemen, the 75th Anniversary Banquet of the Greater Williamsport Chamber of Commerce is now in session."
            Following that brief call to order, a dramatic video was shown of a hydrogen bomb explosion and Mr. Lawrence followed with the following comments:
            "...The question that crossed my mind the first time I witnessed this film - will I in my day and generation ever see the horror of this frightening force on American soil --- Yes, America indeed faces a decade of decisions during the sixties".
            I doubt even Mr. Lawrence had any real idea of what the 1960's would bring.  Luckily his nightmare did not come true and no hydrogen bomb was exploded anywhere, but the 1960's were fraught with change and turmoil and our Nation and the world was never the same.  Many were optimistic about the future but knew a great deal of work had to be done and, when it came to the economy, they also knew the business community would have to drive it. 
            In his introduction, Mr. Lawrence went on to say:
            "Tonight we're going to talk about decisions---decisions for our nation and for the business leaders of the Williamsport area.  1960 is the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of our Greater Williamsport Chamber of Commerce- seventy-five years of leadership in the development of our economy. Our predecessors and contemporaries have served well - Williamsport has many fine assets ---many advantages that simply do not exist in other communities' but by the very nature of this 75th Anniversary Celebration we must recognize that mature Cities have problems.  Williamsport, indeed any of the older Cities of Northeastern United States may easily find themselves in the shadow of deterioration and decay ahead--- it is the responsibility of the business and professional interests of our cities to see this doesn't happen."
            Following Mr. Lawrence's comments, the audience was shown a slide presentation that discussed the Chamber's accomplishments and the challenges to be faced.  I wish I had the slides to go with the presentation but I do not.  The content was interesting and let me relate some of it to you.  As you read this, remember this was 1960, the Cold War was at or nearing its peak and we were at the beginnings of what would be called the space age.  Ironically, like now, technological advancements were coming at what appeared to be a dizzying pace.
            The 22 slide presentation opened talking about the greater Williamsport area with a population of 67,000 - which is a little more than have our population in Lycoming County today.  Slide Four in the presentation stated that "Forward thinking citizens of the preceding decades planned well.  Slides 5 through 9 discussed some of the "major accomplishments".  "We can point to pride to such major accomplishments as our dike system for the protection from flood, a superior airport facility, and exceptional recreation areas for a people who clearly demonstrate their belief in God in their daily lives.  A fine, uncrowded school system, the most modern sewage and water systems, Little League Baseball, the Grays, the Billies --- the Civic Choir and Concert Series are a tribute to the sound thinking and community spirit of our Citizens of the past seventy-five years."
            Similar to how we at the Chamber think today, the slide show then went on to ask "BUT IS THAT ENOUGH?? Are these great strides over the past three quarters of a century going to enable the business and professional men and interests of the Williamsport area to keep pace with the Hydrogen and Space Age?  Yes, Williamsport is moving forward but related to the pace of the World around us might we not find ourselves standing still?"
            The slide show goes on to give what I would characterize as a "call to arms" for the community to join the chamber in moving Williamsport and the surrounding area forward: to not become complacent. 
            Since its inception, the Chamber has been an agent for change in Williamsport and Lycoming County.  We cannot afford to stand still no matter how good we think we have it.  If we stand still, the world will surely pass us by.  That is what our predecessors believed in 1960 and that is what we believe today.