Commerce and Community
This year, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 80th Anniversary. Since 1938, the Chamber has been an instrumental part of the county, helping to shape the growth of DeKalb through its work.
Owing to the fact that DeKalb in 1938 was majority agriculturally based, the Chamber was originally called the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. From its founding, the Chamber showed its desire to both strengthen and expand the existing community. The Harvest Festival, started by the Chamber in 1938, is a great example of this. Originally a one-day event, by 1945 it had grown to a five-day affair that attracted thousands of visitors. This festival was an opportunity for the community to enjoy themselves while also allowing exhibitions of agriculture and livestock from the area. Furthermore, the festival served as an advertisement for the county, enticing visitors from all over to get a look at DeKalb.
The Chamber of Commerce was also heavily involved in sponsoring a great many aid drives. During World War II, it was incredibly active in promoting the sale of war bonds. Clothing drives, polio aid campaigns, and more were backed by the Chamber of Commerce. So long as it helped the community, no cause seemed too small to support. Over the years the Chamber assisted in the planting of dogwood trees, in setting up horse shows, posting driving safety signs, promoting local publications, fighting drug usage in the workplace, and more. On top of that, the Chamber of Commerce served as an information center for the area. While intended to answer perhaps more serious questions about local businesses or various county undertakings, the Chamber did also receive many queries on a variety of topics.
Of course, given the name of the organization, the Chamber of Commerce was and is very much invested in expanding business in DeKalb, and certainly has done so since its founding. Membership lists from decades ago show more and more names of individuals and businesses added with each passing year. But more than just reaching out to businesses, the Chamber recognized the importance of sponsoring improvements within the county to attract businesses.
New technologies were able to come into the county with the assistance of the Chamber of Commerce. Farming advancements, the first locker freezer, expansion of electric wires, as well as improved water and sanitation in the county can all be linked to the Chamber of Commerce. Highway beautification, the effort to turn Stone Mountain into a proper park, improvement of school and library systems, and more not only improved the quality of life for DeKalb citizens but served as a means of showcasing the county to others. And indeed, the efforts that were undertaken by the Chamber of Commerce helped to bring more business into DeKalb. Starting at the county level, the Chamber was able to push connections further and further outward from local to national, and in the 21st century, to the international level.
The DeKalb County that we know and love today exists in no small part due to the work of the Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber continues to work for the betterment of the county. The vision of the organization, listed on its webpage is:
DeKalb Chamber strives to be the convener of partnerships and facilitator of solutions. We equip business members with information and access to resources; advance education and workforce development, economic development and public policy; and work to enrich the quality of life in DeKalb County and the metro Atlanta region.
It is evident that the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce has a rich history full of service and dedication to the community. Based on this history, we can look forward to further improvements of life in DeKalb as the Chamber moves closer to nearly a century of work in this county.
Written by Sophia Malikyar