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history of the chamber

135 years of helping Fort Wayne business

Before planes and even automobiles, and when horses were just at the start of their career in the Kentucky Derby, the start of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce was already out of the gate. At this time, 135 years ago, 70 businessmen became members after sharing solutions to the common challenges of doing business.

After increased recognition between the Wayne and Commercial Clubs, the groups realized that uniting would be a better fit for Fort Wayne and decided to call themselves the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce in 1910. Ten years later, in 1920, the first female joined as a member of The Chamber. The building that still stands on the corner of Wayne and Ewing streets is the distinguished home of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce.

The stepping stones that started from square one were by a fund-raising opportunity that needed $350,000 to build The Chamber of Commerce. The building was finished and ready for business in 1926. 

The Chamber’s longest standing agreement was with the Fort Wayne Woman’s Club. The agreement stated that the Woman’s Club would pay for the cost of an extra story for meeting rooms. The deal also consisted of the Woman’s Club paying rent of just one dollar annually. The Woman’s Club disbanded in 2006.

Getting the Fort Wayne Chamber to the stable structure it is at today took a lot of hard work. One of the larger projects that The Chamber started was by the Greater Fort Wayne Development Corporation, which influenced International Harvester to build a truck factory here in 1922. After the development in 1922, the corporation persuaded Magnavox to move to the city from California. Both companies employed an abundance of jobs and lead Fort Wayne to a more developed city.

Throughout much of the 20th century, The Chamber took part in many opportunities to better the Fort Wayne area. One of the costly yet beneficial innovative ideas at this time was to build an outside road around the city of Fort Wayne. This road was needed to help traffic issues in downtown and allow people to travel around Fort Wayne without long delays. This innovative idea has turned into what is now known as Coliseum Boulevard.

One of the most significant times at The Chamber was in the early '80s when it raised more than $9.2 million for economic development. At that time, this was the largest sum of money raised by a Chamber throughout the country.

In the '90s, The Chamber decided to form a partnership with the Airport Authority to reinforce its marketing. This partnership then led to the creation of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance to coordinate economic development efforts.

In the spring of 2013, The Chamber joined with the Fort Wayne–Allen County Economic Development Alliance to become Greater Fort Wayne Inc., a new, not-for-profit business and economic development organization. Our aligned efforts are focused on growing a more prosperous, vibrant community.

The Chamber has played a fundamental part in the business development and leadership roles in Fort Wayne. The Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all of its members and volunteers for being a part of its amazing past and helping to forge an even brighter future.