History A look into the Past
The Marshall County Chamber of Commerce was organized in the early 1920s as a project of the newly formed Rotary Club. Prior to the organization of the Chamber, the Board of Trade had promoted the retail merchants and industries. The earliest meetings of the Chamber were held on the second story of a building now known as Fountain Square.
One of the first projects of the Chamber was to remove the seven tollgates between Lewisburg and Nashville. The Chamber also promoted the local dairy industry, which boasted its production of Jersey cows as the largest in the nation. A local credit bureau was another Chamber project.
In 1952 the Chamber decided to promote and build a recreational facility for the whole community. Preston Hopkins chaired a committee to raise the funds for the Marshall County Recreation Center. Mr. Hopkins made a list of 28 people and asked them to give $1000.00 each toward the campaign. When this money was raised, others in the community wanted to help with the project. The total cash collection was $130,000. The facility was built on eighty acres of land donated by the stockholders of a private country club that never materialized. The architect and contractor donated their labor, and materials were purchased at cost. For the next twenty years the Chamber of Commerce maintained the facility which included a large swimming pool, a nine-hole golf course, clubhouse, picnic area, and playground. The Marshall County Recreation Center is now operated and maintained by the City of Lewisburg.
The Lewisburg Industrial Park originated with the Industrial Development Committee of the Chamber. Representatives of this committee worked on the idea and urged the Lewisburg City Council to purchase a large tract of land for the purpose of recruiting industry. In 1963 the City purchased the original land for the industrial park.
For many years the Chamber rented space in various buildings on the Lewisburg Square. In 1975, the Chamber membership voted to purchase a building at the corner of Second Avenue North and Water Street. Proceeds from the annual July Fourth Celebration afforded the renovation and furnishings for the site.
When the building was renovated, the Chamber rented the back office to the local UGF for many years. Currently, the Chamber rents the back office to WR Community Services.
One of the most successful Chamber events was the Marshall County Industrial Fair held September 19 and 20, 1976, at the Spot Lowe Vocational School. All Marshall County industries were invited to set up displays which showcased their product or service. A kickoff dinner was held prior to the opening of this mini expo. Invited guests included Chamber members, business and industry representatives, and Tennessee Commissioners of Revenue, Agriculture, Conservation, Employment Security, Labor, and Economic and Community Development. Long lines of people filed by the displays at this free, public event.
In 1983 Chamber members Betty Ann Ogilvie and J.B. Floyd, Jr. co-chaired the Vision Project for Tennessee Homecoming '86. With the help of Chamber members, industries, retail merchants, and a caring community, a twenty-four hour daycare center for working mothers was built on property donated by G.E. Childress on Fox Lane. The facility was known as Wee Care and was governed by a board composed of community leaders and parents.
In the 1980's the Chamber members began to host morning coffees for the membership and their invited guests. These coffees are often scheduled months in advance and remain a good way for members to network.
The Chamber has sponsored Leadership Marshall, a program to train community leaders, since 1996. Mandated by the Tennessee Three Star Program, the course is by application and requires an individual to spend one eight-hour day a month for eight months learning about the community. The eight sessions include a day for orientation, county history, education, health services, city government, county government, state government, and industry. Graduates are given priority when appointments are made to city and county boards and committees. Lynda Potts is the volunteer coordinator of the program.
A Junior Leadership Marshall program was begun in 2001 as a project of that year's adult leadership group. A committee of Leadership Marshall graduates plans and oversees the sessions for these junior and senior high students. All three county high schools have participated each year.
In 1999 the Chamber, under the direction of President Brenda Wolaver, published a community directory that not only listed the membership alphabetically and by business category but also included information on the county, the incorporated communities, and the many aspects of the area that make Lewisburg and Marshall County a desirable place to live and work. For the next six years this directory was one of the main recruitment tools used by the Chamber and by the City of Lewisburg's industrial development recruiter. A website designed by Matt Lewis later gave the Chamber a more global presence.
The Chamber has increased its activities from the single Fourth of July Celebration to numerous events throughout the year. A fish fry, junior golf tournament, pigskin preview with participation by local high schools, Junior Miss Marshall County pageants, bridal fair, dinner show, Rusted Magnolia Marketplace, Mayfest, fall festival for children, Nine and Dine golf classic, and heritage home tour are among the events that it has hosted.
In 2011, under the direction of Eric Michael, the Chamber board of directors voted to offer a “tiered” membership dues schedule which included Presidential and Deluxe level memberships. This allowed the Chamber to increase dues revenue and allow extra advertising exposure for the participating members.
The Presidential Coffees, Ribbon-cuttings, business seminars, and two membership meetings still focus on the needs of the membership. Four editions of the Marshall County Magazine and Marshall County Map are additions to the Chamber’s accomplishments, as well as the introduction of the Junior Board in 2012 and the Chamber Ambassador Program in 2014.
In 2016 the Chamber helped to host the Rusted Magnolia Marketplace to bring in guests to the area and showcase local and regional vendors. Five states were represented, and the event was held on the beautiful grounds of Jubilee Hills, a local 100 acre estate venue. The event will continue to be held yearly in the spring to promote tourism.
The Chamber partners with organizations such as the JECDB and City of Lewisburg Economic Development to host events such as the Agriculture Appreciation Breakfast, Industrial Appreciation Dinner, Kid Again Festival, and Manufacturing Day at the area high schools.
The decision was made to upgrade the Chamber website in 2016 and offer a community calendar which includes a feature where events may be added and shared on social media. Soon, phase II will be completed which includes a member marketplace feature. A tourism brochure is also in the works which will feature tourism attractions in Marshall County and will be found at the interstate welcome centers.
Today, under the leadership of Vicki Cain, President, the Chamber continues on its journey and has grown to over 200 members. While the values remain the same as the day the Chamber was organized, service to the members and community is continually evolving.