In 1890, when Massillon bustled with more than ten thousand residents, local businessmen formed the Massillon Board of Trade, forerunner of the Massillon Chamber of Commerce. Coal mining mogul Anthony Howells was the first president; school superintendent Edmund A. Jones was secretary. Their mission was to bring new industry to Massillon, and during its four-decade duration, the organization raised and spent $200,000 to do so. In their first effort, the board gave the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad $20,000 and thirty-three acres of land to make Massillon its division headquarters.
The Board of Trade incorporated in 1909. Three years later, the board bought one hundred thirty-two acres east of Massillon to divide into lots for the New England allotment and industrial sites. The land development project raised money to pay incentives promised to businesses that relocated in Massillon. When the remaining land was turned over to the Chamber of Commerce, some of it became Stadium Park; some eventually became the site of Tiger Stadium.
In April of 1915, the Massillon Business Men’s Association met in the mayor’s courtroom to hear a speaker expound on the benefits of forming a Chamber of Commerce in an effort to arouse civic enthusiasm. They invited all business and professional men of the community to participate in a public banquet, resulting in a collaboration between the Business Men’s Association and the Board of Trade. Local leaders— J.C. Haring, George E. McCall, Frank A. Vogt, C.E. Stuart, and W.E.N. Hemperly—incorporated the Massillon Chamber of Commerce in 1915.
E.B. Lord, the first Chamber executive, had an office in the McClymonds Building. Since Lord’s term, D.W. Case, Selby Folks, James Alexander, Harold Bostic, Gerald Long, Gene Boerner, Mel Herncane, Bob Sanderson, and Ted Herncane have served as Chamber president. The headquarters moved to City Hall Street next to the building that served as Massillon’s city hall from 1908 to 1976. When Sutter’s Jewelry Store closed, the Chamber moved a few doors north to its more prominent current location at the corner of City Hall Street and Lincoln Way East.
The name was changed in the 1970s to “Massillon Area Chamber of Commerce” to reflect the organization’s evolving membership and commitment to western Stark County. In 2015, the Board of Directors voted to further define the Chamber’s identity as the Chamber approached its 100th anniversary. The updated Massillon WestStark Chamber of Commerce was unveiled on July 1, 2015.
The Chamber’s mission has evolved throughout its history. Today the organization works to develop, enhance and represent business; to promote economic growth; and to improve the quality of life for our community.