Often, I am asked what the heck is the Chamber of Commerce? To start any explanation, it often helps to provide a historical perspective.

Thus, this week’s column will focus on when and why the Chamber was founded.

A History teacher would say, “History helps us understand our own society.” Engrained in our society are the over 300,000 Chamber of Commerce organizations with over 3 million members in the United States, not including international membership.

The first collection of businesses using the term “chamber of commerce” was documented in 1599 in Marseilles, France. The idea caught on and spread to Germany and eventually throughout Europe.


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Founded in the aftermath of World War I in a desire for a world with systems of governed trade, investment, finance, and commercial relations, the international chamber of commerce, commonly referred to as the ICC, began. A handful of entrepreneurs decided to create an organization to represent business everywhere. Today, ICC is the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries. Their mission is to make business work for everyone, every day, everywhere.

The US Chamber of Commerce, USCC, was formed in 1912. The US Chamber states that “their foundational believe is in the ability of American businesses to improve lives, solve problems, and strengthen society.” One of the purposes of USCC is to inform businesses with timely policy analysis and legal advice, connect them with leaders in business and government through events and equip them with tools and resources to help them succeed. The USCC is the largest lobbying group in the United States, representing over three million businesses and organizations. The U.S. Chamber has advocated for policies that help businesses create jobs and grow our economy.

My next column will focus on the Illinois Chamber and how local Chamber organizations relate to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Chamber.

Doug Abolt is president and CEO for the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.

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