127 years of Calgary Chamber history
August 27, 1890: 46 local business leaders – including a doctor, a gun maker, a horse trader, a jeweler, and the local “boot and shoe man” – applied to the deputy registrar of Canada for a Certificate of Association.
May 2, 1891: With the issuing of a Charter, the Calgary Board of Trade was born
1892: First statement of policy work issued.
1893: Calgary became a city and the rail link with Edmonton was completed. Because of our advocacy, Calgary had taken its first step to becoming railway hub, and a steady stream of settlers was coming into the land.
1898: Calgary gets recognized as a divisional headquarters by CPR, which wasn’t just a hard-won victory but also our first win on behalf of the business community. As a divisional headquarters, this meant we had secured multi-directional rail service to and from the city for goods, services and people.
1905: Alberta became a province, and we began spearheading efforts to attract immigration and tourism.
1906: The Board of Trade produced pamphlets lauding Calgary and surrounding districts, which were then widely distributed across Canada, England and the United States.
- The Famous Calgary District: The Land of Golden Wheat, Fat Steers, Industrial Opportunities and Unequalled Climate
1913: We created and distributed our first complete listing of all businesses in Calgary called the Annual Buyers Guide. This was the first “Member Directory”.
1914: To make Calgary the best place to live, work and own a business, we focused our efforts on campaigning for:
- A sophisticated air terminal and more hangar space
- A railway station to serve all rail transport companies in the city
- A new central post office
- The extension of CPR branch lines to service grain growers in eastern Alberta
- Promoting newly-established sugar beet / honey industries in southern Alberta
- A resolution to truck traffic problems
1917: Renting the basement level of the Lougheed Building, we got our first official office, where we stayed there 21 years. Today, this is the Grand Theatre (6th Avenue and 1st Street SW).
1929: We had been championing the push for a new post office for years, and in 1929 arrangements to make it a reality were finally completed. This meant bringing work into the city at a time when many were unemployed following the stock market crash.
1930s: We spent the Depression heavily embroiled in helping to manage the city’s unemployment crisis. People came first, and being the voice of business meant putting the needs of people first while trying to find ways to spark job and industry growth.
1931: In partnership with our counterparts across Canada, we urged the federal government to setup unemployment insurance.
As the 1930s moved to a close, we concentrated on seeking equitable taxation for Calgarians. Sadly, the advent of war disrupted the long-awaited economic recovery the city had been hoping for.
1939: During WWII, we helped support local businesses tap into a previously untapped talent pool with the recruitment of women. Even then we recognized the importance of diversity for stimulating growth in turbulent times.
1940: We co-promoted the first Community Chest, but you’d know this organization better as their present-day incarnation, United Way.
1945: Just like the railroad opened Calgary up to a wider world back in the early days, the Board knew that getting Calgary on the map as an airline hub was vital to the city’s growth and diversification. The Board of Trade’s aviation committee was in the process of making a vigorous bid to have Calgary become a stop on the mainline of Trans-Canada Airlines (Air Canada in present day, before privatization), which was then routed via Lethbridge with only a north-south “branch line” through Calgary.
July 1, 1946: Thanks to our work in partnership with the Mayor and Calgary City Council, Calgary’s airport became a stop on the mainline of Trans-Canada Airlines. The first steps were taken to opening Calgary up as an international airline hub.
1947: Supporting the growth of the workforce of the future, the Board of Trade’s education committee helped convince the province to donate $70,000 to Calgary schools.
1947: Investing in the workforce of the future, our Education Committee played an instrumental role in installing a branch of the University of Alberta in Calgary. It was a small start for post-secondary offerings in the city but that fledgling campus grew by leaps and bounds until it became the University of Calgary in 1966.
1947: Operated by our Tourist, Roads and Convention Committee, we opened the Tourist Information Bureau, the seedling that would grow to one day become Tourism Calgary.
1950s: During this decade, we celebrated many infrastructure triumphs. Partly because of our persistent lobbying, the Trans-Canada Highway was rerouted through Calgary, bringing another mainline of commerce to the city. At the same time, our aviation committee in partnership with the City’s Aviation Commission, had been pushing for international air traffic status for Calgary. In the 1950s, we got it and our first international air terminal was born.
1953: We revised our original bylaws to allow women to become Chamber members. During this year, of our total 1200 members, 15 were women.
1957: Our Committee-run Tourist Information Bureau had grown so much we couldn’t manage it on our own. So in 1957 the Committee handed responsibilities over to the Canadian Rockies Tourist Association, and the Tourism Calgary (Calgary Convention & Visitors Bureau) you know and love was born.
1966: We helped preserve Calgary’s park-like Bow River environment by strongly opposing plans to reroute railway tracks along the river’s shores. Today, that area has grown to become the East Village.
We fought the export of Alberta’s fresh water resources to the US.
We strongly opposed the suggestion that the Calgary Stampede’s grounds move permanently to what is now the site of Mount Royal University.
1971: We helped the Calgary Taxi Commission draft a bylaw on operating standards.
1978: The Chamber purchased the Oddfellows Temple (106 6th Avenue SW), the first instance in its operating history where it owned its own space, but faced a $1.6 million restoration project. To pay for it, we sold the air space above the building to Petro-Canada so they could build a new 35-storey office building. The unique concept of selling air space brought in $2 491 995 and allowed us to completely fund the restoration without outside financial support.
1981: To help Calgary compete in the technology sector, we joined forces with the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary to establish the Calgary Research and Development Authority (CRDA). These days, you’d know them as Innovate Calgary.
July 1983: Heralding a new era of cooperation between local government and the business community, we partnered with the City of Calgary to jointly found Calgary Economic Development with the mandate to attract new industry and build relationships that would ensure a broader economic future for Calgary.
1990: In partnership with the Federal Business Development Bank (BDC), we co-sponsored the first “Small Business Owner of the Year” award. For us, this is where the seeds of the Small Business Week Calgary we all know and love were first planted.
July 1, 1992: The Calgary Airport Authority, born from our Aviation Committee, assumed responsibilities for the operation and expansion of the city’s airport from Transport Canada, and YYC as you know it entered the cityscape.
1998: We help to found the Calgary Homeless Foundation.
2003: The Chamber’s HR Committee founds TalentPool, an independent not-for-profit that connects companies with underrepresented pools of talent like youth, mature workers, immigrants, Aboriginal people, and people with disabilities.
2007: The Chamber creates the Renaissance Calgary project, a policy series outlining how to tackle the key issues facing local businesses and the city.
2012: We sold the Oddfellows Temple where we’d held court for 34 years, packed 100 years of history into boxes, and moved into a modern space on the 6th floor of the Burns Building with the intent to become the Chamber of the future.
2013: Working with in partnership with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), we helped businesses navigate the flood crisis and get back on their feet in the months after. Of all that we had accomplished in our time as Calgary’s Chamber of Commerce, this was by far some of our most important work.
2015: The Calgary Chamber is recognized on the international stage as one of the best chambers in the world. We won Best Unconventional Project for our work on post-flood recovery and business continuity at the World Chambers Competition.
2016: To celebrate 125 years of being Calgary’s Chamber of Commerce, we launched Anything is Possible.