ABOUT

OUR MISSION:

The Chamber engages its members in the pursuit of excellence
and economic growth by fostering an innovative business
environment and a world-class community.


say 'hello' to our staff

CINDY FREY
President

KAMI ADAMS
Director of Operations and Finance

TIM COONEY
Membership Director

Melissa Hennessee
Project Leader

Liz Worthington
Director of Marketing and Programs

BOARD MEMBERS

  • MARY WEISS

    Chair
    Elwood Staffing
  • James Euler

    Vice Chair
    Taylor Bros. Construction
  • KARL KISSINGER

    Treasurer
    Centra Credit Union
  • Scott Redelman

    Executive Committee Member
    Toyota Industrial Equiplment Mfg.
  • Lisa Abendroth

    Executive Committee Member
    The Savory Swine
  • Ashley Abner

    First Financial
  • Tara Board

    Breeden Commercial
  • Rick Bowman

    Cummins Inc.
  • Mike McIver

    Sharpnack Bigley Stroh & Washburn
  • Amit Patel

    AGS Private Equity
  • Cameron Wilson

    SIHO Insurance Services
  • Steven Combs

    Ivy Tech Community College
  • Steven Engelstad

    Engelstad Wealth Advisors
  • KEVIN WETTSCHURACK

    Kinney Paper & Chemical Co.
  • Frank Wadsworth

    IUPUC
  • Bill Jensen

    Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation
  • Denise Glesing

    Columbus Regional Health
  • Jason Hester

    Ex-Officio
    Economic Development Board
  • Karen Niverson

    Ex-Officio
    Columbus Visitors Center
  • Jim Lienhoop

    Ex-Officio
    Mayor - City of Columbus
  • Carl Lienhoop

    Ex-Officio
    Barthlomew County Commissioners
  • JT Doane

    Ex-Officio
    Hope Chamber of Commerce
  • Kathy Oren

    Ex-Officio
    Community Education Coalition

Our Values


Members First
We put our members above all else.  Every business referral, every program, every event is executed with our members' needs in mind. When conducting our business, we seek to purchase goods and services only from Chamber members.  

Creative Collaboration
As the voice of the local business community, the Chamber is obligated to represent its members' interests in community conversations. 

Excellence
In Columbus, excellence is an expectation. We will perform to the very best of our abilities. 

Engagement
We want our members to get a high return on investment. We work aggressively to encourage participation and to involve our members in the work of the Chamber.

Integrity
We will do the right thing.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Chamber models innovation and entrepreneurship in its own operations.  We seek to be a Chamber that's creative, innovative and forward-thinking.


Staff & Board


The Chamber's offices are located at 500 Franklin Street in the heart of downtown.  The office phone number is 812.379.4457.

The Chamber's Board of Directors is an active, committed board.  Every board member represents a Chamber member in good standing.  In recruiting, we seek a balance of members that is reflective of the community and our membership.  Ex-officio members are non-voting members who represent important community partners.  These board members keep us connected to the larger community. 

Every year, there are two "open" board meetings.  All members are encouraged to attend these meetings.  The annual meeting of the organization is held in the first quarter of every year. 

The Chamber staff represents over 100 years of experience in small business, corporate, government and non-profit management.  


History


It’s 1890 in Columbus, Indiana, and there were still some rock slab and board sidewalks downtown, but mules were starting to pull street cars up and down Washington Street. The town’s population had topped 6,700 and folks were beginning to envision better things. 

Hence, in 1890, a Businessmen’s Committee was formed which met informally and occasionally, but members shared concerns over lack of jobs in the city, the need for merchants to improve their offerings and a desire to make Columbus more attractive for industry and the people. In 1908 the group took decisive action. The Columbus Commercial Club, with 100 members, was formed with a membership fee of $10. 

On October 27, 1915, The Columbus Chamber recorded its papers with the Indiana Secretary of State and hired its first full-time Executive Secretary, John E. Northway. By now, the organization was being referred to as the Chamber of Commerce instead of The Commercial Club. 


In 1929, the Columbus Chamber scored a first – at least in Indiana. Then Chamber President, G. L. Reeves made a radio address over Indianapolis Station WFBM advertising the City of Columbus on behalf of the Chamber. He told the radio audience, “We are not attempting to build the largest city at Columbus, but simply the best.” That same year, Arvin Industries had started moving to Columbus and with that move and expansion of Cummins, Columbus was never again exactly a “Little Town.”

Several men served as Chamber Presidents during the times of the “Roaring Twenties”, the Depression of the ‘30’s and World War II. In 1942, with the start of World War II and the construction of nearby Camp Atterbury, Chamber activities boomed! In 1943 Chamber President Earl B. Pulse looked ahead to the eventual end of WW II and formed several committees for long-range objectives for the city of Columbus. Close to 200 individuals worked on that two-year project. In December, 1945, the group concluded a 15-point program which provided direction for Columbus, even to the present. The 15-points included:

  • Establishment of a Planning Commission and a master plan for Columbus by an Architect-Engineer, with a Zoning Ordinance and Building Code.
  • Prompt annexation of East Columbus.An outdoor swimming pool (which became Donner Center).
  • A new gymnasium or fieldhouse, a civic center.
  • A new City Hall and combined civic or recreation center, or combined new hotel and civic center, and a new center for the Foundation for Youth.
  • A new city water supply and construction of a sewage disposal plant.Establishment of a building fund tax to improve school facilities with more business education in the schools and a program for returning veterans.
  • Use of Atterbury airfield as a joint Municipal Airport, or if it (now Columbus Municipal Airport) was not available to use the Walesboro field as a city airport.
  • Construction by the State Highway Department of a new bridge over White River at the western edge of Columbus, on Road 46, and a new bridge over Hawcreek on East Twenty-fifth Street.

Within fifteen years most of the objectives had been reached.

There was no slowing down – there was the Greater Columbus Action Committee, the Environmental Programs, expansion of IUPUI center, opening of the Visitors Center in the Storey House, the Mill Race Park project and Riverfront Task Force, and Town Meetings looking to Columbus’ future needs.

In the 1980’s, the community was faced with dramatic changes brought about by national industrial restructuring and downsizing. In response, the Chamber and other community organizations forged partnerships to diversify the city’s economic base by bringing new companies to the community and encouraging existing businesses to perform. Through the Columbus Economic Development Board, which operates under the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a global effort to bring new businesses to town was mounted. It was enormously successful. From 1976 to 1999, 37 new companies were recruited through the efforts of the EDB, accounting for 3,371 jobs and an investment of $320 million. Expansion of 181 local businesses contributed to 5,148 new jobs and brought more than $1.5 billion in investments to the community. 

With education playing a major role in the economic development efforts, the Chamber stepped forward as a catalyst in bringing about improvements in existing educational structure and creating new educational environments. As part of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Community Education Coalition was formed creating a partnership of education, business and community stakeholders focused on aligning and integrating the community learning systems, economic development and quality of life in the Columbus area. 

The Chamber continues in the role of both an activist organization and a partner with scores of others as we strive to foster an innovative business environment and a world-class community.

Source: Compiled by Robert Marshall in 1978 and updated by Harry McCawley in 1999.

Resources


It’s 1890 in Columbus, Indiana, and there were still some rock slab and board sidewalks downtown, but mules were starting to pull street cars up and down Washington Street. The town’s population had topped 6,700 and folks were beginning to envision better things.

Hence, in 1890, a Businessmen’s Committee was formed which met informally and occasionally, but members shared concerns over lack of jobs in the city, the need for merchants to improve their offerings and a desire to make Columbus more attractive for industry and the people. In 1903 a President was chosen and Board of Directors was elected but no office was established. In 1908 the group took decisive action. The Columbus Commercial Club, with 100 members, was formed with a membership fee of $10. An office was set up on the second floor of the Hilger Building at the southwest corner of Fourth & Washington Streets. With the rapid growth of the Club, offices were moved in 1913 to the Ogden Building at 316 Fourth Street, where a large meeting room was available. Coinciding with this move, The Commercial Club affiliated with the National Chamber of Commerce becoming No. 283.

RESOURCES

Engagement



We are all familiar with the fact that markets and industries are becoming more competitive and global in nature. But strangely enough, enduring competitive advantages in a global economy lie increasingly in local things—knowledge, relationships, and motivations that distant rivals cannot match. If you believe this statement to be true, a Chamber should be uniquely positioned to create and foster a regional business climate that increases knowledge and builds upon these distinct relationships.

It’s this “power of place” factor that will become the most important driving factor of competitive success in the future. By working on these “local things,” a Chamber can create a business climate of interconnected firms and institutions whose whole is more than the sum of its parts. 

To that end, the Chamber supports the work of our partners.  We work strategically alongside the Economic Development Board, City of Columbus, Bartholomew County, Community Education Coalition and the Columbus Visitors to move the community forward.  Collaboration is a long-held community value.  

We also support the work of the Columbus Young Professionals, Leadership Bartholomew County and Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Association, three organizations worked to ensure that the community is developing the leadership it needs to move us forward in the future.