The Chamber of Commerce was organized on May 15, 1888 with the filing of the Articles of Incorporation, constitution and bylaws for the stated purpose of “advancing the commercial, mercantile and manufacturing interests of Little Falls and the surrounding country”. Listed on the initial membership roster were 42 businesses.
For the past 119 years, the Chamber has been instrumental in the development and expansion of business in Morrison County. The foresightedness of the founding fathers of the area laid the foundation for the Chamber as we know it today.
There is little recorded history for the Chamber from the years 1888 to 1954. The Chamber’s first paid staff came in the form of administrative support by Mrs. W. J. Bellefeuille from 1954-1960.
G. Harmon Klemme was the first paid administrator serving 1960 – 1962. Following Klemme was W. J. Vondrashek from 1963 to 1967. The Glen Kraywinkle tenure was from 1967 – 1984; Dave Hochhalter from 1984 – 1995; Elaine Westerdahl-Delaney from 1996 – 2003. Starting in 2004, Debora K. Boelz has been the President/CEO for the Chamber.
The Chamber’s role in the community has evolved with the changing times. The first industrial park in Little Falls developed on land purchased by the Chamber. The West Side Industrial Park was the first venture into economic development. Out of this action grew Community Development of Morrison County, which today is its own non profit corporation.
Another major program that was instigated by the Chamber is tourism. An offshoot of promoting the area for business development and relocation was welcoming visitors and travelers. Morrison County offers a variety of recreational, cultural, historic and entertainment opportunities. From its inception with the Chamber, tourism is now offered through the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In 1972, the Chamber took over the planning and implementation of the Little Falls Arts & Crafts Fair. This event has grown to include hundreds of vendors from numerous states - 25 states in 2006! It annually attracts crowds of shoppers numbering over 130,000. Proceeds from the Arts & Crafts Fair enables the Chamber to keep its membership dues at very reasonable rate.
In 1984, the Chamber of Commerce changed its name to Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce to demonstrate the importance of developing an area wide approach to attract new commercial and industrial businesses. In 2006, the name was changed again to simply the Chamber of Commerce with the tag line “proudly serving Morrison County since 1888”.
In 1991, the Chamber moved into its current offices located in the historic Cass Gilbert Depot. The results of a community-wide effort saved the historic train depot from demolition. Today this proud structure is not only home to the Chamber of Commerce, but contains a community room that is enjoyed by many people on an annual basis.
In 2007 the Chamber’s website was redesigned and expanded to better serve the needs of the membership. Utilizing software specifically designed for chambers, this user-friendly programming will enhance the value of membership and encourage regular visits as the site becomes the ‘go-to’ place for up-to-the-minute information for the Chamber.
The 35th anniversary of the Little Falls Arts & Crafts Fair was celebrated in 2007 with a fair that attracted 140,000 shoppers and just over 650 vendors. Over the past 35 years, this event has brought untold dollars in the local economy.
In our ever-changing world, the Chamber has been and will continue to be a valuable resource for the community; supporting not only chamber members, but the greater community, through leadership development and financial support.