Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce - About us

Chamber History

 

Williamsport Lycoming Shamber of CommerceAugust 2010

This is the ninth 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.

            As I have researched these articles by going through old minute books as well as annual reports, I tended to look back to the 1800's and early to mid 1900's.  What I didn't realize is that the years I avoided, the mid-1900's to present day while not "ancient" history to me or many of our readers, it is for many others. While reading some things for this month's issue, I came across the Minute Book for 1979 and thought that was too recent until I realized that was two years before my son was born and he is 29 years old - to him it probably is "ancient history".  So, I picked it up to see what was going on with the Chamber and the community some 31 years ago.  What I found was an interesting survey the chamber conducted in the spring of 1979.
            The survey was entitled:  Major Business Survey and was sent to Chamber member companies.  The survey was divided into two sections; Economic Factors and Community/Lifestyle Factors, combined there were thirty items and respondents were asked to rate whether something was a Major Asset, Minor Asset, Not a Factor, Minor Problem or a Major Problem.  Just about everything asked is something we would ask today if we were looking to do a survey about how, from a business perspective, things in our community stacked up.  Here are some of the survey results.
            There were three modes of transportation asked to be rated:  Highways, Rail, and Air.  Here is how the Chamber members rated each in 1979; how would you rate them today?  Highways - 82% rated the highways either as a Major or Minor Asset.
The Rail Industry did not do as well, with only a combined 16% rating rail as either a Major or Minor Asset with 58% saying it was not a factor and 26% responding that it was either a Major or Minor Problem.  Interestingly, a note made part of the survey said: "Whenever possible, business now looks elsewhere for transport."  That is hardly the case today with the new gas industry locating here.  Rail is once again becoming critical to our region and rail access is critical to many in the natural gas industry.
            The third mode of transportation rated was "Air Travel".  Like rail, air did not fair well either with 67% saying it was either a major or minor problem.  As with the rail section, a comment was added that reads:  "economic growth could cause improvements and vice versa." 
           
            Public Utilities were rated with oil/gas receiving 42% positive, 43% "not a factor" and the remaining 15% as either a Minor Problem (14%) or a Major Problem at 1%.  The area's electric utilities were rated similarly with 48% positive and 46% Not a Factor. The lowest rated Public Utility was Water and Sewer with 28% saying it was a Major or Minor Asset, and 42% saying it was not a factor.  The remaining 30% were split with it being either a Major or Minor Problem.  That was the only rating that garnered more negative than positive votes.
            Government was also rated with local government regulations and taxes being seen as negative.  The biggest concern was State Government regulations and taxes with regulations receiving a combined negative score of 57% with no one saying they were a Major Asset and only 6% saying state regulations were a Minor Asset.
            As far as State Business taxes were concerned, five percent said they were an asset while 65% said they were a problem and 30% said they were not a factor.  I would bet the results would be even worse today.
            Under the heading of Community/Lifestyle Factors the single largest problem the area faced then was lack of an affordable housing.  With 73% saying housing posed either a Major or Minor Problem.  Ironically, this could become a problem with the expansion of the natural gas industry today unless we look to develop more single family residences.
            Personal Taxes were also rated as a problem with 63% saying property and personal taxes were a problem for residents but, as is the case today, our regions recreational, health and educational sectors received high marks.
            The most positive responses came in the area of recreational facilities and our educational system with 82% of the respondents saying both of these areas were positive assets to the community.  I would suspect the same would be true today. 
            Also rated high was our health care with 81 % rating it as a major or minor asset and only 1 percent as a major.  Similarly, although not rated as highly, our law enforcement in the area was well thought of by the Chamber members of the day.  Over fifty percent of those responding thought our law enforcement was an asset with only 4% believing it was a Major problem 11% a minor problem and the remaining believing it was not a positive or negative factor.
            There were other areas the survey asked about, but these give you a good idea of what was asked and how the business community responded.  I find looking back an interesting thing to do because it allows us to learn from our past mistakes and successes.  It also gives me an opportunity to learn more about Williamsport and Lycoming County's economic past and how we can make do things better today.