Our mission: to promote progressive community and economic development to benefit Chamber members and the North Iowa region.
The Chamber is a membership-based organization more than 650 strong whose members provide nearly 19,000 jobs in the region. The Chamber works for the success of its members, and strives to promote and educate to ensure the future growth of North Iowa.
The Chamber’s vision is grounded in its mission. To this end, the organization works to develop a region with well-designed community programs and economic development best practices that assist free enterprise to create jobs and prosperity. Tomorrow’s headlines will be the product of actions taken today behind the scenes to keep North Iowa vibrant.
The Chamber of Commerce provides leadership on key issues and strategic policy recommendations to stimulate economic growth in North Iowa. Such growth is achieved by creating an environment conducive to business success – which leads to job expansion and increased state and local revenues.
In addition, the Chamber provides three signature programs with a rich tradition of helping to shape future leaders: Leadership North Iowa for young professionals in the area; a high school youth leadership program, YIELD; and College Connections for summer interns. People who commit to these leadership programs are difference-makers; the loyal sponsors and supporting businesses are a strong testament to the effectiveness.
The Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)6 organization. It is non-partisan, but does take positions on issues at the local, state and federal level to stimulate economic growth opportunities for local business. The Chamber challenges elected officials to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money, and to invest in programs and policies that will enable North Iowa to grow.
Joining the Chamber is a good thing to do, but what exactly does an active chamber membership say about you or your company? Studies show that being active in the local chamber of commerce is a good strategy for businesses to use in communicating to consumers that their company uses good business practices, is involved in the community, cares about customers, and is reputable and trustworthy.
100 years and counting…
In 1916, Mason City’s population stood at 17,712. The industrial revolution, a youthful population, a flood of immigrants, vast natural resources and a strong spirit of entrepreneurism were propelling Iowa,
and the rest of the nation, forward at a dizzying pace.
It was 1916 when business leaders in Mason City, with a passion for economic growth and prosperity, formed the Mason City Chamber of Commerce. Almost immediately, the Chamber began making an indelible mark in North Iowa:
- In 1920, the Chamber sponsored a 20-piece band of professional musicians that performed two concerts daily for 10 weeks. The only “local” musician on the roster was Meredith Willson, playing the flute and piccolo. These performances led to the establishment of the Mason City Municipal Band.
- The Chamber of Commerce Glee Club originated in 1922 under the direction of Harry Keeler. In 1952, this acapella group transitioned to the River City Barbershop Chorus. Today, more than 70 men of all ages participate in this program.
- The Chamber established a “Community Chest” in 1923 to benefit the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, YMCA and YWCA. The Chamber continued to operate this organization until 1946 when it was launched as the United Fund, and later became today’s
- In 1927, the Chamber’s Aviation Committee founded the Mason City Municipal Airport with assistance from the Clausen-Worden Post of the American Legion. Charles Lindbergh attended the airport’s dedication ceremony shortly after completing his historic transatlantic flight.
- In the dark days of the Great Depression, the Chamber organized a scrip program by issuing 10,000 one-dollar certificates. For each transaction with a Mason City merchant, a stamp was affixed to the certificate. When 52 stamps were collected, the certificate could be redeemed for 98 cents at the First National Bank.
- The Chamber sponsored the very first North Iowa Band Festival in 1938, a tradition that continues today and serves at the official kick-off to the summer season.
- In 1971, the Chamber began admitting women to its membership. It had operated as an all-male organization since 1916.
- In the late 1990s, the Chamber spearheaded a program to install welcome signs at the four major entrances to the Mason City community. The limestone masonry structures are a nod to Mason City’s heritage.
- In 2002, the Chamber began leading annual trips to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the business community and the North Iowa region. These efforts have resulted in improved relationships with federal officials and staff members, as well as significant federal investment in the region.
- The Chamber served as the applicant and lead organization for Mason City’s Vision Iowa project, which resulted in a $9.2 million renovation to the public library; the $20 million restoration of the Historic Park Inn; construction of the Architectural Interpretive Center; and the Federal Avenue streetscape improvements.
- The Chamber offers Global Familiarization Travel opportunities as a means of helping North Iowans transition to the global economy. Destinations are important U.S. trading partners that our members may not feel comfortable traveling to on their own. Since 2011, Chamber travelers have visited China, India, Turkey, Cuba, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, and Japan, to name a few.
- In 2012, the North Iowa Regional Commerce Center opened in a formerly vacant downtown building. The renovation was made possible through previous Chamber fundraising efforts earmarked for a permanent location and an I-JOBS grant from the state. The Commerce Center serves as the business hub for North Iowa.
- The Chamber served as a key partner in Mason City’s 2012 bid to be selected as a pilot Blue Zones Project community. Today, Mason City continues this effort as a Healthy Hometown community and the Chamber continues to partner as the lead for the Worksite Wellness component.
- River City Sculptures on Parade has its home at the Chamber of Commerce. This sculpture walk takes participants on a 1.7 mile winding loop through the Cultural Crescent and back to the Downtown Core. More than 50 sculptures by artists from across North America are included in the exhibit.
- Partnering with regional leaders, the Chamber helped initiate the Vision North Iowa strategic plan. This project will bolster entrepreneurship, support future growth and workforce development initiatives, position North Iowa for success and enhance a quality of place for citizens. Most importantly, it will lead to an ongoing, intentional planning process for the region.
- In 2017, the Chamber’s Leadership North Iowa class led the community in the Mason City Says YES! campaign, an effort to bring a new hotel, conference center, performing arts pavilion, and multi-purpose arena to the region. The public vote passed overwhelmingly, and the Chamber has continued to promote progress on the project and will see it through to completion.
- With the Chamber’s leadership, Mason City is making strides in “Building Our Brand” as a destination for Prairie School architecture, while also improving the appearance of the back side of downtown buildings with beautiful murals in the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School.
Today, the Chamber of Commerce remains true to its mission of promoting progressive community and economic development to benefit Chamber members and the North Iowa region.
It remains an independent organization operated by a small group of paid staff and many volunteers. The Chamber is not supported by tax dollars and has no power to impose taxes or other measures that would directly increase the cost of living for the citizens of our community. The Chamber is simply a private business with a vested interest in activities to grow the local economy and improve the business climate.
The Chamber will continue to serve its members and the North Iowa region into its second century and beyond.