The Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce is a membership-driven organization committed to providing value-added services to its members while functioning as a catalyst for promotion, growth and community development.
Through the years organizational names have changed, as well as membership rolls and lists of officers, but the goal remains the same, to make Allegan a better, more livable home town.
As far as can be determined, in May of 1905, Allegan Board of Trade had its beginning. Gustav Stern, a retail merchant,( also Allegan’s first mayor) was its first president. Thomas M. Cook was vice-president; Fred Littlejohn, secretary, and Leonard Stein, treasurer. The board of directors included Edwy C. Reid, C.W Young, M.D. Owen, J.P. Badour, O.S. Cross, Ira Montague, W.W. Vosburgh, J.F. Marty, J.E. Young, and A.L. Robinson. The infant organization enjoyed success in its first year, inducing a plate glass company to locate here. Its history from then on set a pattern of “highs” and “lows” which has been typical of all the organizations that followed.
At one “high” point, the Allegan Chamber of Commerce rented part of the first floor of the Masonic Temple vacated by the public library when it moved into its present building. The chamber of commerce rooms provided a central meeting place for all sorts of community activities.
In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s the Chamber of Commerce shifted into high gear again under the leadership of Douglas Alcock, then editor of the Allegan Gazette; and Douglas Nash, serving as a full-time secretary-manager. This group was the first to emphasize the area’s resort business as a “new industry”.
The post-war years saw chamber of commerce activities hit a definite “low”. Early in 1953, many residents were bemoaning the fact that Allegan seemed to be losing ground in a time when communities all around were making great progress. Out of this feeling grew the Allegan Improvement Association, Inc. organized August 15, 1953 with seventy paid-up members; H.D.Tripp was its first president, with Richard Mahar vice-president and I.J.Tucker as secretary-treasurer. On the board was Lloyd Lawson Sr., Clyde McGowan, Joe Armstrong, Peter Collins, Lewis Lovett, James Farnsworth and Ralph White.
The A.I.A. functions on a purely voluntary basis. Its sole administrative outlay goes to a local office which handles an amazingly large amount of routine mail and in-person inquiries of more than 2,000 a year. In the ten years it has been established, it has brought two new industries (more than 200 new jobs), aided in establishing a third (40+jobs) and assisted three existing firms with expansion plans. Nearly 10,000 industrial development folders have been distributed; hundreds of prospects have been solicited by mail and in-person and committees have worked directly with scores of site-seeking firms. In the realm of civic improvements, the A.I.A. played a major role in establishing the Eastern Avenue ski run, and the new Little john Lake beach. It campaigned for expansion of down-town parking facilities and “waterfront beautification.”
Cities, like people, have personalities. At the time the A.I.A. took a leading hand in maintaining our area’s personality, its appearance and its spirit through an aggressive public relations program. This ranged from sponsorships of such special events such as steam club rodeos, horse shows, archery tournaments, Allegan’s 125th Anniversary Celebration, distribution of maps and folders promoting recreational facilities, and special State Forest promotional program which included folders, billboards, and magazine advertising.
Although the A.I.A. dissolved between the 1960’s and the 1970’s, the community’s spirit and energy did not and in 1975 local business owners revived and revamped a professional business organization to form the Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce.
Today the Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce consists of over 150 members and organizes multiple events and programs for its members and members of the community. We are a proud organization that is here to serve and promote our community and businesses to the best of our ability.