The “Chamber of Commerce”, as implied in the name, is an assembly of those who are involved with and have an interest in business and free enterprise. It is a private, not-for-profit business association. The Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County was incorporated with a 501-(c) 6 “business association tax exemption” classification, unlike most not-for-profit community organizations that are considered charitable, educational, religious, etc. with a 501 (c) 3 or other classification.
In the Beginning...
Limited historical records indicate that a Fremont Chamber of Commerce existed in the late twenties and early thirties. However, we are unaware of the exact reason for its folding, but speculate that the war had something to do with the non-continuation of the organization.
The Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County organized in January of 1946. At that time the Chamber had neither a permanent office, furniture, equipment, board of trustees, officers, committees nor program of work. The challenge was to build a strong and effective organization in the shortest time possible.
The organization began with a group of solicitors representing three divisions, Commerce – Service – Industry, seeking financial support across the county. The solicitors had a goal to raise $20,000 for the organization. The first executive secretary, Victor C. Ballenger, was hired in early 1946 to manage the Chamber.
The three divisions of the Chamber each began with six men per division as their own board, with the eighteen of them making up the first board of trustees of the Chamber of Commerce.
During that first year, the organization identified ten major activities to work on. They included: 1. Housing 2. Industrial Development and Expansion 3. Health, Recreation and Education 4. Water Supply and Sewage Disposal 5. Fire Prevention 6. Local, State and National Affairs 7. Trade Promotion and Rural Relations 8. Solicitations and Excessive Advertising 9. Traffic Safety and Street and Highway 10. Improved Mail Service.
Late in that first year, (December 23, 1946), the Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County was incorporated in the State of Ohio, under the purpose of collecting and circulating valuable and useful information relating to the manufacturing, industrial, mercantile and agricultural interests of the County of Sandusky, Ohio; to encourage wise and useful legislation; to aid in the adjustment of controversies and misunderstandings between its members and others; to promote and maintain the general welfare of the manufacturing, industrial, commercial, mercantile and agricultural interests of said county; and generally to promote and maintain the civic, economic, educational, social and general welfare of said county.
According to the Articles of Incorporation, the following persons served as trustees of the corporation until the first annual meeting: Howard E. Zink, Herbert P. Tschumy, Sherman J. Bennett, Andrew J. Koch, Paul W. Kridler, and Leo W. Kenny.
A single membership into the organization was $25. The Chamber staff consisted of the executive director and one secretary.
Over the Years...
During the course of the years, the organization has refined, refocused and redirected its earlier efforts. Advancements in local and state government, and other agencies, allowed some of the specific local needs and interests to be addressed by these new agencies and organizations. Economic development branched into its own organization in the county in 1984. The Small Business Development Center, established through Terra State Community College, was established in 1988. Main Street Fremont began addressing specific downtown revitalization and retention efforts as an organization in 1999. And, at some point the Fremont/Sandusky County Convention & Visitors Bureau was established with the Chamber and then separated into its own organization when a funding stream was identified.
In 1992, the Board of Trustees purchased the Lytle building and leased office space to other organizations as a supplemental funding stream. In 2014, it made the decision to sell the building to Discover Fremont, Ltd. who renovated the building to include additional office space, a modernized conference room, and studio apartments on the second floor. The Chamber entrance moved to the north side of the building changing its address from 101 South Front Street to 215 Croghan Street.
As it was in the beginning, today the Chamber is organized, funded, directed, operated and accountable to its business investors (members). From its beginning, the Chamber has been focused on developing and conducting a program of work that meets the responsibility it holds to members and to the community which it serves. Current membership benefits include incredible savings and educational programs, and opportunities to get noticed and build connections.
The organization operates under a standing committee structure rather than an issue-driven one as in the early years. The current committees of the organization include: Ambassadors, Agriculture, By-Laws, Education & Workforce Development, Executive, Finance, Health & Wellness, Legislative, Membership & Marketing, and Nominating. The Sandusky County Safety Council is also managed through the Chamber office.
Organizations that are closely affiliated with the Chamber include the Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation, Leadership Sandusky County, Downtown Fremont, Inc. and the Sandusky County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Today, our membership averages around 340 businesses and our base business membership rate (business with up to 3 full-time employees) is $250 with special rates for educational institutions and home-based businesses. The Chamber staff consists of one full-time Director, a full-time Program & Events Coordinator, a part-time Marketing & Membership Coordinator, and a part-time Operations Coordinator.
The Chamber of Commerce works very closely with other county-wide organizations.; We feel that these close affiliations make each of us individually stronger organizations, as we function with minimal cross-over, leaving each organization to serve the community in the fashion that fits their mission best. These organizations are:
Sandusky County Convention & Visitors Bureau
The mission of the visitors bureau is to encourage economic development of Sandusky County, Ohio through promotion of tourism and conventions and to encourage and promote the county by advertisement and other educational and informational means, as a destination for over-night accommodations by non-residents of Sandusky County, whose interest may be for business, pleasure or other purpose.
Their web site connects to loads of information on anything about Sandusky County a visitor could want or need. From restaurant locations, to tourist attractions to services available across the county.
Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation
The mission of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation is to improve the economic well-being of Sandusky County.
The Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) works in conjunction with city economic development offices across the county and the other towns and townships in the county without ED offices who want to work with new businesses interested in locating in their jurisdiction. For over 20 years, the SCEDC has served to provide prospective businesses with information on zoning, building permit processes and financing, as well as conducting confidential research and surveys for firms interested in expanding or locating in the area.
Leadership Sandusky County
The mission for Leadership Sandusky County (LSC) is to provide a learning experience which encourages successful community leadership. They are committed to developing leaders who will improve the quality of life in Sandusky County.
LSC, founded in 1991, has aided in the development of over 300 adult community leaders. These leaders have, in turn, affected change throughout Sandusky County by volunteering their time and efforts to hundreds of community-based organizations, and serving in key roles on many non-profit and for profit boards around the county. In 2006 the program graduated its first class of 8th grade students making up the now annual Youth Leadership Sandusky County (YLSC) program.
Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
Founded in 1914 by 50 chamber administrators who met in Cincinnati, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) began as the National Association of Commercial Organization Secretaries (NACOS). "Secretary" was a common term for a chamber executive back then. NACOS was headquartered in Washington, D.C., and had 176 members. Ten years later membership exceeded 1,000. In 1948 NACOS officially became the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, and in 2014 ACCE was renamed to better describe its mission and character: the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Today, ACCE is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, and represents 1,300 chambers of commerce that employ more than 15,000 people.