In the early 20th century, a dynamic America was growing fast and carving out a place for itself as a major global economic power. Across the nation, thriving businesses gave our economic engine its thrust and helped propel America toward prosperity. But these businesses lacked a unified voice in Washington. To prevent an increasingly powerful federal government from obstructing enterprise, public- and private-sector leaders called for the formation of a national chamber of commerce.
On April 22, 1912 — 100 years ago this month — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was founded. And so we embarked on our mission of standing up for American businesses, protecting our system of free enterprise and working constructively with government whenever possible to set the right policies. It’s a mission that endures today.
The chamber has been privileged to help guide our nation — through the power and influence of the private sector — during periods of economic prosperity and national challenges alike.
Leaders turned to the Chamber of Commerce and members of the business community to help navigate the dark days of the Great Depression and restore hope in America amid widespread economic despair. Along the hard road to recovery, the chamber worked to establish the foundation for a strengthened economy.
A few years later, as conflict erupted around the world and the U.S. economy shifted to a wartime posture, U.S. leaders mobilized the business community to marshal America’s great industrial might. The chamber helped turn U.S. enterprise into a patriotic operation that kept the economy humming, while preparing for the post-World War II influx of workers and the prosperity they would bring.
Today, we face a new set of challenges. The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has weighed down American businesses and sent unemployment rates surging. Though our economy is recovering, it’s growing at a rate insufficient to create the 20 million jobs American workers need now.
Once again, business is leading the way. Through our American Jobs and Growth Agenda, the Chamber of Commerce is promoting pro-growth ideas to reinvigorate our economy and put Americans back to work quickly. Our plan calls for expanding energy development, infrastructure investment, global commerce and innovation — all driven by the private sector. And we’re calling on the government to enact critical tax, regulatory and entitlement reform to restore our fiscal health.
In times of boom or bust, the character of the American business community has remained steady. We are committed today — as we have been for 100 years — to preserving free enterprise and protecting the promise of the American Dream for generations to come.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.