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Chamber Accomplishments

In 1916, Mason City’s population stood at 17,712. The industrial revolution, a youthful population, a flood of immigrants, vast natural resources, and a strong spirit of entrepreneurism were propelling Iowa, and the rest of the nation, forward at a dizzying pace. It was 1916 when business leaders in Mason City, with a passion for economic growth and prosperity, formed the Mason City Chamber of Commerce. Almost immediately, the Chamber began making an indelible mark in North Iowa:

• In 1920, the Chamber sponsored a 20-piece band of professional musicians that performed two concerts daily for ten weeks. The only “local” musician on the roster was Meredith Willson—playing the flute and piccolo. These performances led to the establishment of the Mason City Municipal Band.

• The Chamber of Commerce Glee Club originated in 1922 under the direction of Harry Keeler. In 1952, this acapella group transitioned to the River City Barbershop Chorus. Today, more than 70 men of all ages participate in this program.

• The Chamber established a “Community Chest” in 1923 to benefit the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, YMCA and YWCA. The Chamber continued to operate this organization until 1946 when it was launched as the United Fund, and later became today’s United Way.

• In 1927, the Chamber’s Aviation Committee founded the Mason City Municipal Airport with assistance from the Clausen-Worden Post of the American Legion. Charles Lindbergh attended the airport’s dedication ceremony shortly after completing his historic transatlantic flight.

• In the dark days of the Great Depression, the Chamber organized a scrip program by issuing 10,000 one-dollar certificates. For each transaction with a Mason City merchant, a stamp was affixed to the certificate. When 52 stamps were collected, the certificate could be redeemed for 98 cents at the First National Bank.

• The Chamber sponsored the very first North Iowa Band Festival in 1936, a tradition that continues today and serves at the official kick-off to the summer season.

• In 1971, the Chamber began — admitting women to its membership. It had operated as an all-male organization since 1916.

• In the late 1990s, the Chamber spearheaded a program to install “WELCOME SIGNS” at the four major entrances to the Mason City community. The limestone masonry structures are a nod to Mason City’s heritage.

• In 2002, the Chamber began leading annual trips to Washington DC to advocate for the business community and the North Iowa region. These efforts have resulted in improved relationships with federal officials and staff members as well as significant federal investment in the region.

• The Chamber served as the applicant and lead organization for Mason City’s Vision Iowa project which resulted in a $9.2 million renovation to the public library; the $20 million restoration of the Historic Park Inn; construction of the Architectural Interpretive Center; and the Federal Avenue streetscape improvements.

• The Chamber offers Global Familiarization Travel opportunities as a means of helping North Iowans transition to the global economy. Destinations are important U.S. trading partners that our members may not feel comfortable traveling to on their own. Since

• 2011, Chamber travelers have visited China, India, Turkey, Cuba, Australia, New Zealand, and Peru to name a few.

• In 2012, the North Iowa Regional Commerce Center opened in a formerly vacant downtown building. The renovation was made possible through previous Chamber fundraising efforts earmarked for a permanent location and an I-JOBS grant from the state. The Commerce Center serves as the business hub for North Iowa.

•The Chamber served as a key partner in Mason City’s 2012 bid to be selected as a pilot Blue Zones Project community. Today, Mason City is a certified Blue Zones Community, and the Chamber continues to partner as the lead for the Worksite Wellness component.

• River City Sculptures on Parade has its home at the Chamber of Commerce. This sculpture walk takes participants on a 1.7 mile winding loop through the Cultural Crescent and back to the Downtown Core. Nearly 50 sculptures by artists from across North America are included s in the exhibit.

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