The first Chamber to be organized in the United States precedes the Declaration of Independence by eight years when the New York State Chamber began in 1768. Eight years later, the first local Chamber was formed in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Chamber was first known as “The Commercial Club” and was formed in Tulsa in 1902, which was renamed the Chamber of Commerce in 1915. In 1969, it became the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, descriptive of its regional concern and updated in 2000 to the Tulsa Metro Chamber, and revised to the Tulsa Regional Chamber in 2012.
Less than 20 businessmen sat down to participate in the genesis of the Tulsa Commercial Club in 1903 in an effort to attract job-creators to the small community of Tulsa. The Tulsa Commercial Club would later be renamed the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.
In February 1907, the Tulsa Commercial Club called a rare meeting at the Opera House, making an appeal to the general public to attend and pledge their purchase of stock in a corporation that would offer to manufacturers cheap natural gas and free building sites. The $99,700 in reported pledges built the foundation that would later make Tulsa the petroleum equipment-manufacturing center of the world.
The Tulsa Commercial Club’s board had the opportunity to acquire Muskogee’s Henry Kendall College. The board and the club’s members sold building lots on the edge of town to raise the necessary funds, guaranteeing what they couldn’t raise. The college settled on a piece of land “east of town,” and several years later would adopt a new name: The University of Tulsa.
As early as 1906 the Commercial Club began to foment for the creation of a suitable Tulsa water supply. By 1919 the problem was so evident that general support for a new water source was almost unanimous—but choosing the source caused one of the most divisive debates in Tulsa’s history. The argument was cost vs. quality, and the Chamber answered by assembling endorsements from 200 of its members for the (quality) Spavinaw water project. The Chamber endorsement was critical in persuading the City to call an election on the Spavinaw project—a vote that won approval.
The flow-line from Spavinaw was scheduled to deliver 25 million gallons of water daily to the city, but Tulsa’s water demand then was only 10 million gallons a day. The Chamber led efforts to put the excess into lakes in a recreational parkland on acreage donated by two Chamber members. The new site became Mohawk Park.
In 1923, a group of veterans of the early oil boom held a reunion at the new convention center. They met again in 1924, 1925 and 1927, by which time the growing convention had spilled out into the streets. The Chamber was asked to assume management to make the event an exposition, and the “International Petroleum Exposition” (IPE), which the Chamber housed at the fairgrounds, was held at intervals of three or four years from 1928 to 1979. It became one of the largest trade shows in the world. The Golden Driller statue and the fairgrounds’ huge Expo Building are relics of the Petroleum Exposition.
Chamber marketed an empty Douglas modification center to American Airlines later becoming--and continues to be--Tulsa’s largest employer
Board authorized the creation of a corporation to construct a modern, 187-acre industrial distribution district in West Tulsa. Five Chamber directors comprised the board of the corporation, and borrowed $600,000 from a Tulsa bank to buy and develop the land as industrial sites. Soon, 54 Chamber members agreed to also put forward monetary endorsements. The project lay between West 46th Street and West 51st Street--adjoining the Frisco Railroad. As a factor in stimulating Tulsa’s growth, the decision to become actively involved in developing industrial sites and offering them at bargain prices was one of the most important decisions the Chamber had made, certainly in the second half of its history.
Vision 2000--Chamber led campaign efforts to pass a bond issue for parks, Performing Arts Center, passage of the hotel-motel tax to promote convention and tourism and creation of the Citizens Crime Commission.
Inner Dispersal Loop opens after years of Chamber lobbying
OSU Tulsa opens
Secured and managed over $750,000 in supportive campaign funding to pass Vision 2025
Convention and Visitors Bureau wins National Conference for the Historic Trust and Preservation
After 50 years in the same location, moved Chamber headquarters for a more progressive presentation of Tulsa
Chamber convenes leadership retreat of over 150 business leaders, elected officials, community leaders and staff to create a new, regional economic development plan
Launched a campaign to raise $9 million to fund the Chamber’s economic development program called Tulsa’s Future
Established Tulsa’s Young Professionals, an organization focused on retaining and attracting young professionals to the Tulsa region while also establishing Tulsa’s next generation of leadership.
American Chamber of Commerce Executives selected the Tulsa Metro Chamber as the Nation’s Best Chamber.
Raised the funds and provided leadership for the successful passage of the City of Tulsa’s General Obligation Bond, Tulsa Public Schools largest school bond in history, and Tulsa County’s Four-to-Fix the County sales tax
Completed a strategic planning process to develop a comprehensive, five-year plan for the following priorities: Jobs and People, Education, Legislative Success, and Community Development for the Arkansas River and Downtown Revitalization.
Coordinated the first-ever, joint regional Legislative Agenda branded as “One Voice” on behalf of the area Chambers and surrounding communities.
Won the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) 2008 Chamber of the Year Award.
Opened Tulsa’s newest icon, the BOK Center on August 30, 2008, as part of the county-wide Vision 2025 package voters approved in 2003.
Tulsa Metro Chamber named Nation’s Best Chamber for a record third time.
Tulsa’s Young Professionals opened The Forge, a business development center for young entrepreneurs.
The Chamber’s Business Retention and Expansion program was honored as the top program of its kind in the nation.
Launched Tulsa’s Future II, a new regional economic development plan for the next five years.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded the Tulsa Regional Chamber its highest recognition – five-star accreditation. The honor makes Tulsa the only five-star accredited chamber in Oklahoma, and one of only nine American MSAs of 500,000- plus with five stars.
The Chamber’s economic development division was honored with AEDO (accredited economic development organization) accreditation through International Economic Development Council.
The Chamber’s board of directors voted unanimously to change the organization’s name to the Tulsa Regional Chamber in order to continue the momentum toward creating a unified commitment to the success of all communities in Northeast Oklahoma.
The Small Business Connection was launched as the lead entity dedicated to educating, empowering and expanding small businesses in Northeast Oklahoma. Chamber staff and the Connection Board organized the inaugural Small Business Summit, where more than 400 attendees gathered to share best practices and recognize winners of the annual Crystal Star Awards. The organization will provide networking opportunities and programs geared toward helping small businesses in northeast Oklahoma achieve success.
Chamber staff unveiled the findings of the Workforce Analysis Project, a 24-week study on the state of the Tulsa region’s workforce in relation to our economy. Recommendations were provided for improving job opportunities for residents and maximizing the pool of skilled labor available to area employers. The project culminated in a 116-page report outlining workforce strengths, opportunities and challenges for the region.