The Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce is your link to the Wayne County community! The businesses that thrive here and the people who make it happen!
The Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce mission is to advance bright futures through leadership and advocacy in the local business community. We promote, lead, unite and serve our members, our businesses, and our communities.
We envision a prosperous, friendly, and bright future with a quality of life that constantly improves for citizens of all ages. We work toward open and welcoming communities that are safe, clean, rich in enterprise, and growing in population and prosperity.
The Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce adheres to the following organizational values to best accomplish our mission and achieve our vision:
- Leadership and Advocacy: We are dedicated to the growth of our business community and local economy.
- Focus: We are focused on member needs and the success of the Wayne County area business community.
- Empowerment: We encourage our members’ personal and professional growth through providing access to resources and educational opportunities.
- Collaboration and Connection: We value the diversity of our business community and the larger community. We connect people, businesses and resources.
- Innovation and Tradition: We adapt to the needs of our members every day while preserving and honoring our history.
The Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce is a business network that promotes members and the community by encouraging economic growth and a superior quality of life. The organization does this by providing network opportunities, developing strategic partnerships like and a number of initiatives, including the School is Cool program, the Community Improvement Awards, Manufacturing Matters, and hosting local political debates and more.
There is no better investment for a business or professional firm than membership in the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce. We work to connect member businesses across the county. Acting as the voice of Wayne County businesses for more than 40 years, the Chamber represents over 500 members.
The Chamber Story
Early history of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce
The idea of a Chamber of Commerce in Richmond developed slowly after World War II, even as many cities already had well-established Chambers and others were organizing new ones to take advantage of the widespread industrial expansion following the war.
According to thinking of the time, Richmond didn’t really need a Chamber, primarily because the “City Fathers” made the major economic decisions and we already enjoyed a formidable array of prosperous industries. These included the Dille-McGuire and Lontz lawnmower factories and later Motomower, a combination that often led to the contention that we were a leader in that sector in the nation. There were several busy casket manufacturers, plus the massive Crosley facility, later Avco, and the expanding Natco company. Even more notable for a national recognition were the Hill companies, which provided the basis for the claim that in Richmond there were more roses grown under glass than anywhere in the world, thus leading to the boast we proclaimed for many years that we were “The City of Roses”.
Yes, at that time Richmond had a strong and vibrant economic base with many good jobs. And yes, perhaps we were “fat and happy”. Then the world began to change.
The heavy-duty machinery manufacturer Bucyrus-Erie chose Richmond for a new facility (actually in Center Township) – to great acclaim – and, unfortunately, slowly sank into bankruptcy. Avco did o.k. for a while but eventually went out of business. Natco moved into the vacant Bucyrus-Erie plant and later sold out and the successor businesses eventually closed. The lawnmower companies disappeared. Even our star performer, Hill’s, ran into rough waters when South America showed it could grow roses much cheaper; we no longer were “The City of Roses”.
About ten years after the end of the war, a “new breed” of civic leadership began to see the handwriting on the wall. We had to go out there and bring in new industry. But it was rough going, because most of the expansion was declining. Headed by Art Vivian and Earl Allen, the Committee of 100 was formed in 1955, because the need was obvious but the “powers that be” were not ready for a Chamber of Commerce. The Committee of 100 was basically an economic development agency and it did what it could with its single-purpose mission.
So it came to pass, some 20 years after the war, that Richmond’s new crop of leaders, mostly composed of bankers, retailers and professionals, roused itself in response to the urgent demand for a full-blown Chamber of Commerce, started in 1966 and again headed by Art Vivian, who continued in that leadership role until his death at 95 years of age.
Since its inception, The Chamber – at first the Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce and later the Richmond-Wayne County Chamber – has been the primary source of leadership in promoting civic improvement in Richmond and Wayne County. As a “full service” agency, supported entirely by private contributions, it has recognized the full panoply of ingredients in what makes a better community, especially education. It was the principal force in forming the original Richmond Community College, soon followed, due to its invitation, by Indiana University, which established the regional campus known as Indiana University East. Soon after that, the Chamber helped establish Ivy Tech College, under the inspired leadership of Frank Pummerville, assistant general manager of the local Alcoa plant, who retired from Alcoa on Friday and on Monday became the first dean of Ivy Tech.
Today, the Chamber, while still emphasizing its original charter of supporting local business, continues to reach out with leadership and support for many good causes in the quest for community betterment, especially for education. Along with Earlham College and the newly-formed Purdue College of Technology, Richmond and Wayne County are blessed with an infrastructure of higher education unmatched by any county of its size in Indiana. Since 1979 when Charley Rodefeld made real his dream of a Wayne County Foundation, these two organizations, both privately financed, have become the two most important “engines for change” for community improvement, and bid fair to continue in what appears to be a nascent resurgence in the prosperity and well-being of Richmond and Wayne County.