Community Pulse: Grundy County Chamber ‘through the decades’

As the Chamber approaches its 75th Anniversary next month, I have been researching more details of our history in preparation for the Anniversary Celebration, Jewels & Jean, on Aug. 25. While the goal of the Chamber has always been to build and support the business community, what that has looked like through the decades is interesting.

While the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry is officially celebrating 75 years, its history actually dates to 1907 when for the first time in recorded history a group of business men gathered to create the Retail Merchants Improvement Association, according to documents provided by the Grundy County Historical Society. Their goal was to come up with a credit rating system for customers. Back then you could make a purchase and put it on a tab. But as Morris’s population grew – this became more difficult to keep track and collect on.

Over the years this group evolved into the Morris Chamber with one of its first orders of business being to help raise money for the high school’s band uniforms. As the power of membership grew, so did the Chamber’s impact. Infrastructure such as Route 47 and the Morris Airport became its focus in order to grow business and industry in Grundy County as a whole.

By the 1940s the Chamber incorporated and started expanding its committees including a special events committee that founded the Grundy County Corn Festival. By the 1950s it was able to hire employees and create a retail committee that spurred shopping local just like the Chamber and the Morris Retail Association do today.

The 60s and 70s inspired recreation work with the realization that a widely active community encourages people to spend time here and therefore their money supporting our local businesses. A belief our Chamber continues to support today through our advertisement, visitors bureau and events. In 1978 the Chamber spearheaded a committee making the high school’s rec center (MALS) open to the public.

Through the 1980s and 90s the Chamber started to help the county develop its industrial plans and job retention eventually birthing the Grundy Economic Development Council, while continuing its retail and community work. These are the years the Chamber’s advocacy, networking, and member promotion work really debuted with benefits such as meet and greets, luncheons and expos – all of which we do today still – Lunch and Learns, Family Fest, Coffee & Company and connect@4 events.

In recent decades we’ve faced housing booms, recessions and COVID-19, throughout which the Chamber has continued to help lead our business community to recovery and sometimes fresh starts.

All of this and so much more is worth celebrating at the Jewels & Jeans anniversary celebration Aug. 25 presented by Busey Bank and Constellation. The event sponsored by Simple Communications, CPV Three Rivers Energy Center and D’Arcy Motors will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on the Chamber grounds at the old train depot, 909 Liberty St. For $40 you will receive dinner by Country Blaze BBQ (sponsored by Old National Bank), open bar (sponsored by NuMark Credit Union), dessert, live music (sponsored by Grundy Bank) and more.

A special thanks to additional sponsors: LyondellBasell, SOCU, Edward Jones, Joliet Junior College, Coal City Bank-branch of Bank of Pontiac, Sunshine Garden Center and Applejax Creations.

For information or to register, contact or 815-942-0113 or visit

Christina Van Yperen

Christina Van Yperen

Christina Van Yperen is a contributing columnist to Shaw Local