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Fox Cities Chamber celebrating its 150-year anniversary

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The Fox Cities Chamber has officially kicked off its 150-year anniversary, with plans to celebrate all year long with its members and the business community.

“We are beyond excited to be celebrating our sesquicentennial this year. This is a huge milestone for any organization, and especially for a local member-supported group like ours, started by Fox Cities businesses all those years ago,” said Becky Bartoszek, President and CEO of the Fox Cities Chamber.

“While a lot has changed in that time, I’m proud to say the mission of the Chamber has not. Our original 1874 charter outlines a focus of uniting the business community for greater economic impact, and that’s still a mission we share today. We serve as a collective voice for our members and convene the programs and services that help the community thrive.” 

According to Bartoszek, it was August 1874 when a group of Appleton business leaders first met at the Waverly House to seriously consider an official Chamber for the city. They made it a reality the very next month, organizing the Appleton Chamber of Commerce. A.L. Smith, mayor of the city and founder/president of First National Bank, was board president. 

Although the original Chamber had its ups and downs over the next couple of decades, in 1920 it saw a huge resurgence. This time it was reorganized amid much fanfare and with great success. On March 11, 16 business leaders met in The Sherman House to plan, then later that month the Appleton Chamber of Commerce was officially re-launched in the Appleton Elks Hall, with 612 enthusiastic members signing up immediately. 

Just a few miles away, the Menasha Chamber had been formed around 1919 and the Neenah Chamber organized in 1940. In 1946 the Directors of the Neenah Chamber invited Menasha businesses to join with them and reincorporated into the Neenah-Menasha Chamber of Commerce. 

Then, in 1976, the business community realized that bringing the two largest area chambers together would provide even more of an impact on economic growth. So the Appleton and Neenah-Menasha organizations consolidated to become the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry, creating a broader geographical service base and range of business interests.  

Throughout its existence the Chamber has continually been a partner with businesses, municipalities, and the community to keep the Fox Cities moving forward. In their early years they had a focus on the cities’ infrastructure of “planes, trains, and automobiles,” which still holds true today. Advocacy and economic development also have always been at the forefront of their efforts. Over the years the Chamber has played a role in key developments such as Highway 441, the Fox Cities Expo Center, construction of the Oneida Street Bridge, the Outagamie County Airport, and many other aviation developments, including ATW’s recent announcement of a direct flight to Dallas that starts in June. 

“There’s no doubt that through the years the Fox Cities Chamber has been a catalyst for positive change and a steadfast companion to the growth and prosperity of our region,” said Bartoszek. “We’re proud of how the Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in the growth, economic development, and sustained success of the Fox Cities over the past 150 years. We are still as relevant today as we were in 1874, when those 16 men envisioned a business group that would help our community move forward.”  

To commemorate their milestone anniversary, the Chamber will be incorporating the theme of 150 years into its events and programming throughout the year. They also have several special activities planned: 

  • They officially kicked off their anniversary on January 16th at the Chamber’s first major event of the year, Celebrate, with a toast, special anniversary show, and premier of their history video. View the video at https://youtu.be/1rCaufBu9LY?si=YCS1DDmOglOVbLwM  
  • At the event, U.S. Representative Glenn Grothman’s office presented the Chamber with a Congressional Commendation for 150 years of service to the Fox Cities community. 
  • Each month at their Business After Hours they will have special door prize giveaways donated by members, to celebrate all the businesses that make the community great. 
  • The Chamber has partnered with FOX CITIES Magazine on a 16-page insert outlining the organization’s history. It will be launched at the Chamber’s Economic Outlook Lunch on February 13 and published as an insert in the March magazine. 
  • The Chamber collaborated with Wisconsin Distributors and McFleshman’s Brewing Company, who co-branded TWO of their beers in honor of the anniversary: Pirate’s Cove and Something Amber. Cans of the beer will be used in special promotions throughout the year, and it will be served on tap at events such as Octoberfest.  
  • A formal presentation on the Fox Cities Chamber history is scheduled for September 11, as part of the Appleton Historical Society’s Presentation Series.  
  • The Chamber is planning to create a time capsule this summer. 
  • Chamber members with their own milestone anniversaries in 2024 are invited to share that with the Chamber so they can celebrate together. Learn more at https://foxcitieschamber.com/member-milestones/  

Visit the Chamber’s web site for ongoing updates and more information on their 150th anniversary: https://foxcitieschamber.com/chamber-150th-anniversary/  

About Fox Cities Chamber 

Founded in 1874, the Fox Cities Chamber is a nonprofit membership organization that unites the regional business community for greater economic impact. Serving Outagamie, Calumet, and northern Winnebago Counties, the Fox Cities Chamber is the second largest Chamber in the state. Our organization proudly captures the energy of one of Wisconsin’s most dynamic regions and transforms it into innovative programs and services to champion employers, economic development, and quality of life.