Shirley Kempf being sworn in as the secretary for the Houston Chamber of Commerce by the first president of the chamber Don Murray. (Submitted/Houston Today

Houston & District Chamber of Commerce turns 60

Takes a trip down memory lane from March 1961 to today

  • Mar. 31, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The Houston & District Chamber of Commerce has been around for six decades and turned 60 on Mar. 28.

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was no in-person celebration held.

When businesses in Houston started to grow, there was also a growing need for a chamber in Houston. Several folks were already a part of the chamber in Smithers. Finally, with help from the Smithers & District Chamber of Commerce, the Houston chamber was first established in March 1961 and the very first meeting was held in the old schoolhouse. The first ever President for the chamber was Mr. Don McEwen.

What started as a small group of 22 members in ’61 in a schoolhouse, is now 95-member strong. From individuals to businesses, the chamber has been providing assistance to these entities over the years. In 2010, the chamber took over the management for the Houston Merchant Gift Certificate program and ever since have managed to keep over $775,000 in Houston.

With changing times, the chamber also made several new additions and adjustments to their existing programs such as the Business Excellence Award was changed to Community Excellence Awards to acknowledge and celebrate not just the local businesses but the local community as a whole. They even adapted to the changing times by adding social media engagement and newsletters to their tasks.

In an update issued by the chamber President Halley Finch, she said “As we look towards the future, we will be completing a re-brand in 2021, working on a Tourism Strategic Plan for the District of Houston and participating in creating the BC Chamber Regional PlayBook for Economic Recovery.”

These re-branding efforts are in addition to the chamber’s 2020 upgrade of its website.

In 2020, the chamber, like several other organizations and businesses, moved its meetings to an online format and even held virtual all-candidates forum during the local elections.

“It is an honour to be part of an organization that has been in the community of Houston for the past 60 years. The Chamber continuously promotes our amazing community. The Chamber works with the District of Houston, businesses and professionals to help build a healthy economy and improve the quality of life for residents,” said Maureen Czirfusz, the chamber manager in an email to Houston Today.

In the coming days, the chamber plans to host its annual Pitch In on Apr. 22 this year as well as hopes to hold its second annual light-up parade in November this year.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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