With the filing of Articles of Incorporation on May 15, 1888, a Chamber of Commerce was formed to serve Morrison County. “The object of this organization shall be for the purpose of advancing the commercial, mercantile and manufacturing interests of Little Falls and the surrounding country (not county, but country), for creating just and equitable principles of trade; for establishing and maintaining uniformity in the commercial usages of Little Falls and the surrounding country; for acquiring, possessing and disseminating useful business information; and for adjusting controversies and misunderstandings which may arise between individuals engaged in trade; and for promoting the general prosperity of Little Falls and the surrounding country.” Our founding fathers envisioned Little Falls would grow to be the next largest city west of Chicago. Forty- two names are listed on the original document with James C. Flynn listed as the first president; John H. Rhodes, vice president; George LaFond, secretary; E. Rothwell, treasurer and directors Jonathan Taylor, Charles Gravel, George H. Townsend, A.R. Davidson, W.M. Fuller, C.A. Lindbergh and Harry Rasicot.
Morrison County was a hub of activity for the region during this time period with Little Falls being officially incorporated as a village in 1879.
It took three tries to get the dam not to wash out, but that just speaks to the fortitude of the founding fathers. In 1887, the third dam was built in Little Falls with funding from investors from Louisville, KY., which led to other major industries locating in the area, touting the water power as a prime feature.
The Chamber of Commerce was already in place to welcome development of the Pine Tree Lumber Company and Hennepin Paper Company, which started operations in 1890.
The Morrison County Historical Society has a listing of 150 influential people that have helped to shape Morrison County on its Web site at www.morrisoncountyhistory.org. Many contributors to the early settlement of the area are listed with specific ties to the Chamber of Commerce.
Today the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is chartered by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to serve all of Morrison County. Current membership stands at 323 members with membership
extending beyond the county borders to encompass the larger service territory.
The Chamber was the forerunner of Community Development of Morrison County. The funding to purchase the land that is now the North Industrial Park was raised by the Chamber membership. With the onset of state and federal funding programs and revolving loan funds, the economic development portion of the Chamber formed its own 501(c)(3) organization.
The Little Falls Convention and Tourism Bureau also has its roots in the Chamber. The Tourism Committee of the Chamber became its own 501(c)(3) when the restaurant and lodging tax was approved by the Legislature in the late 1990s.
The Little Falls Business Association (LFBA) is an offshoot of the Retail Committee. Prior to the formation of the LFBA, retail members of the Chamber paid an extra $50 to the Chamber to plan and fund retail promotions. Today, the Chamber pays the LFBA $50 for each retail member that belongs to both organizations to help fund their own advertising for retail promotions that they wish to sponsor. It’s a win-win for everyone.
The Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is the proud sponsor of the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair, which is economic development, tourism and retail to the nth degree. In our 41st year, the dollars that this one event brings to the county and surrounding cities’ and towns’ businesses large and small is impressive and a welcome boost to the cash registers up and down main street; to the nonprofit community and many property owners who open their homes and lake cabins during this time period.
As we go through our 125th anniversary year, I will be sharing more information on what the Chamber does for its members and the greater community. Stay tuned.
Deb Boelz is the CEO/president of the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.