SSMCOC 130 Years
The Chamber of Commerce Celebrates 130 Years as the Voice of Business in Sault Ste. Marie
Contributed by Penny Perrier
2019 marks a significant milestone for the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce. For 130 years, the Chamber has been the recognized voice of local business, advocating for economic policy that encourages business growth and benefits the community as a whole, making Sault Ste. Marie a great place to live, work and raise a family.
History relates the vital role that Sault Ste. Marie Board of Trade (as it was formerly known) played from early beginnings to grow our city’s population and to attract key industry to set up shop. Indeed, its mandate from the early years of the twentieth century until the 1930s was to attract manufacturing and industry to the town.
‘To Develop the Sault’ was the title of an article in The Sault Star on July 10, 1902 that outlined the plan that The Chamber would embark on. Local Capitalists of the day such as Frances H. Clergue provided advice and connections. After all, it was said that Sault Ste. Marie possessed all the necessary inducements to manufacturers by this time, a railroad linking the town to the U.S.A., electricity, and the shipping canal.
Later campaigns of The Chamber of Commerce focused on population growth with a major advertising campaign in 1910, likely the reason this postcard was designed showing Queen Street, the Leland Hotel and a streetcar. Streetcar service continued until October 31, 1942.
In 1912, the population of Sault Ste. Marie was about 13,000 people and the town was incorporated to become a city. By 1913 the population had risen to 18,800 and The Chamber broadened its involvement to include power, real estate and trade and commerce. Later it would also include tourism which would be the impetus for the construction of a Log Cabin headquarters, a tourist-oriented information centre, situated on Brock Street near the ferry docks to the United States.
Over the years, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce was called upon to play a role in many significant events. In 1912, the Lake Superior Corporation planned to amalgamate its holdings and form the Algoma Steel Corporation. They turned to the Chamber for support and approval “as representing the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie” before they approached City Council. Sault Ste. Marie experienced a housing shortage in 1920 - it was The Chamber who acted as the intermediary accepting loan applications from builders and reporting them to City Council. Whether it was spearheading events aimed at drawing industrialists, tourists or new settlers to the area, or advocating on behalf of local businesses and citizens, The Chamber was at the head of the initiative. Bon Soo winter carnival grew out of the first winter carnival financed by the Chamber of Commerce. The Sunday Shopping Issue, the Downtown Restoration project, the retention of the Sault-based forest insect laboratories, and many more initiatives critical to our great city have seen the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce at the heart.
The formation of The Sault Ste. Marie Board of Trade, or Chamber of Commerce, as it would later be named is documented in The Certificate of Formation dated June 25, 1889. This document which is held in the Sault Ste. Marie Museum shows the signatures and occupations of its first members.
The history of business, the development of Sault Ste. Marie and the integral involvement of The Chamber of Commerce is well documented. A full-page article in Toronto World in July 1889 described Sault Ste. Marie – a city with a historical record, a great commercial future and a flourishing Board of Trade. We have come a long way and look forward to continuing to be “Your Recognized Voice of Business in Sault Ste. Marie.
Penny Perrier is a retired member of the Board of Directors for The Chamber of Commerce, a long-time resident of Sault Ste. Marie, an active participant in a variety of roles in the business sector ranging from entrepreneur, manager, post-secondary teacher and senior administrator.