Formed in October of 1913, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce has played a vital and continuing role in the prosperity of our community. The Chamber and the Village, Town and City of Columbia have enjoyed a close relationship throughout this time. The first President was Ernst A. Weinel of Weinel Hardware. Serving with him were Vice-president Herman L. Rose, and secretary Henry N. Kunz, treasurer George Roessler of the Roessler hauling and ice business. Additionally, the executive committee included lumberman F.W. Weinel, businessmen E.J. Schneider. W.A. Schoening and Albert Lepp.
In the first year of operation, the organization hosted the triennial convention of the Modern Woodmen of the county and assisted in entertaining the Catholic Societies of the Belleville Diocese and Group 9 of the Illinois State Banker’s Association. The organization started out with 49 members and, by 1917, grew to over 100. In the decades that followed, the organization took part in and spearheaded several community improvements and celebrations including the Centennial Celebration of 1959, the historic Columbia Strassenfest (which spawned the popular Chamber mascot “Fritz Schnickel”), the Celebration 2009 series of events and the ongoing July 4th Celebration. The chamber membership has played a pivotal role in the successful Columbia Sister Cities relationship with Gedern, Germany and the namesake submarine relationship with the USS Columbia (SSN 771). Through the earlier decades the organization helped bring the Boy Scouts, Khoury League, the first high school, paved roads, sewers and water lines to the community.
The Christmas street decorations that grace our Main St. during the holiday season are an ongoing project that was initiated in the 1950s and continues to this day. The Columbia American Legion display at Memorial Day and Veterans Day coincides with the Avenue of Flags that the Chamber of Commerce has sponsored for over 25 years. The Avenue of Flags, with well over 100 placements, is displayed on Main St. and Veteran’s Parkway on Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbia Days, Veterans Day and other appropriate events, holidays and milestones as they are deemed appropriate. The Columbia Boy Scouts install, remove and refurbish the flags.
As we embark on our second century, this organization has grown to over 200 members. The viability of the chamber is largely due to the dedication and support of its board of directors and loyal membership. Since l987, the Chamber honors outstanding members and organizations in the community with its Pillar of the Community Award. The first recipient was the late Mayor Albert C. Metter.