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90 years in the making and still moving ahead

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
From left, Eileen Dautrich, president of the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce, distributes materials at the chamber’s 2016 giving thanks holiday mixer to Kourtney High and Jennifer Ridgway, both representing event sponsor Pottstown Area Rapid Transit. 
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From left, Eileen Dautrich, president of the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce, distributes materials at the chamber’s 2016 giving thanks holiday mixer to Kourtney High and Jennifer Ridgway, both representing event sponsor Pottstown Area Rapid Transit. 

Resources, programs and support.

Those are hallmarks of the TriCounty Chamber of Commerce, which this year celebrates its 90th anniversary.

“I think it is a phenomenal accomplishment,” Ellen Dautrich, president of the Pottstown-based chamber, said about its efforts dating to 1927. “Our organization has been impacted by the economy and its impact on our members.”

Dautrich and co-workers have been compiling historical records for the chamber, which plans a celebration dinner April 26 in Phoenixville.

“Technology has obviously changed the way businesses communicate and network, and that has impacted how people do business and use a chamber of commerce,” she said. “So, I am, of course, very happy that we are still a strong organization in the tri-county area.”

In March, the first Pottstown Progress Luncheon answered the question, “Why Pottstown?”

Also new this year, a series of monthly educational seminars and workshops called Refresh Fridays kicked off to keep positive efforts moving forward.

It’s a theme that has been going on from the beginning.

In 1930, for example, the chamber printed and distributed a pamphlet bearing the words, “No Depression Here!”

SERVING THE COMMUNITY

In the pamphlet, members urged locals to be a part of planning for Pottstown, encouraged residents to use bonds released from the completion of the new nearby sewage system and asked for calls to the chamber about odd jobs for men looking for work, noting that they didn’t want charity – only work.

The pamphlet said more than 6,000 industrial workers in Pottstown collectively received $8,737,000.

Much of the documentation of the chamber’s efforts shows a concern for the local community.

For example, in 1931, because of the Great Depression, chamber members endorsed a motion to establish a free dental clinic for grade school children whose parents couldn’t afford the costs.

BUSINESS CONNECTOR

Originally the Pottstown Chamber of Commerce, by the 1960s the name changed to the Greater Pottstown Chamber of Commerce.

“The area had changed and expanded significantly, and the chamber found itself frequently working outside of the Pottstown borough limits,” Dautrich said about augmenting the name.

The chamber had name changes again in 1977 and 1986, sparked by transportation and highway development bringing in more business connections, and by 1993, it became known as the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce.

“All businesses in today’s business environment are short on time, possibly staff, and cannot do it all,” Dautrich said. “We want members to see our organization as their connector to whatever they need to have their business grow and succeed.”

‘DEDICATION IS REALLY INSPIRING’

O’Donnell, Weiss & Mattei PC is a Pottstown-based law firm with a substantial focus in business clientele. The company has been a member of the chamber for more than 30 years.

“If something needs to get done, not only will they pick up the phone, but they’ll come to us personally,” said Joseph Koury, an associate attorney for the firm and solicitor for the chamber’s board of directors.

“Their dedication is really inspiring,” Koury added. “And it’s amazing to me how much they’re able to accomplish with what is a very small staff.”

His role as solicitor has also benefited his contribution to his company.

“It’s increased my knowledge and skill set greatly, and I really appreciate that,” he said.

FOCUSING ON MEMBERS

The Victory Bank in Limerick Township became a member of the chamber in 2007, even before it opened its doors in 2008.

“I like the advocacy and that they support commerce, which is good for us and the community,” said Rich Graver, the bank’s chief delivery officer and chief lending officer and chairman of the chamber directors. “As commerce grows, the opportunity for business and retail customers and loans grows with it.”

Graver noticed a member-oriented focus even in difficult times.

“The staff we have is really engaged,” he said. “They work hard at getting their job done. We’ve had our challenges, and our staff has not been increased, but our membership is growing.”

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