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Chamber celebrates Centennial

Washington’s “First Gentleman,” Mike Gregoire, tells the crowd that the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce is at the forefront of the “phenomenal change that’s sweeping the whole area.” - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Marysville Globe
Washington’s “First Gentleman,” Mike Gregoire, tells the crowd that the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce is at the forefront of the “phenomenal change that’s sweeping the whole area.”
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Marysville Globe

MARYSVILLE — After 100 years in operation, it’s still going strong.

The Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce celebrated its centennial in style Dec. 4, with so many distinguished guests that it was rendered standing room only at several points during the evening.

Debra Loughrey-Johnson, chair of the Chamber Centennial Committee, has been a member of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber for the past three years.

“The best way to do business is to do it here,” said Loughrey-Johnson, one of many Chamber members who credited Chamber President and CEO Caldie Rogers with being instrumental to the Chamber’s success in recent years. “I’ve learned a whole lot from her, and a lot about the city of Marysville from Ken Cage. We’re a close-knit community that’s small enough that we can really get to know our business owners.”

Marysville Historical Society President Ken Cage has only been a Chamber member for five years, but his expertise made him a natural for the role of Centennial Committee historian. Cage joined to gain more exposure for the Marysville Historical Society, and he named Rogers one of the Chamber’s “secrets to success.”

“I researched the Chamber in our archives of The Marysville Globe,” Cage said. “I found that it was referred to interchangeably as ‘the Chamber of Commerce’ and ‘the Commerce Club’ until about the 1960s. I even spotted one reference to a Chamber in 1905, but nothing else. 1908 is when our Chamber adopted its bylaws.”

Cage and Chamber Chair Al Aldrich agreed that a number of cities aren’t even 100 years old yet, “especially this far west,” which makes the Chamber’s longevity all the more impressive.

“I’ve put together its story, decade by decade,” Cage said. “It’s always been at the forefront of pushing local business opportunities. Everything they’ve done has been to try and make things better for local businesses.”

Aldrich offered a more current perspective on the Chamber’s “robust success,” pointing out that the period from May through September saw the Chamber office receive as many as 4,000 walk-ins. Rogers added that the Chamber is open seven days a week. By the end of December, she estimated the Chamber will have been responsible for 1 million referrals in 2008 alone, and she touted the Chamber’s recent survey of its member businesses.

“The universal response we received was in favor of legislative advocacy and support for local businesses, and in favor of marketing for those businesses,” Rogers said. “Our Web site has a worldwide reach, and we’re generating excitement with our ‘Buy Local’ campaign.”

Rogers and Washington’s “First Gentleman,” Mike Gregoire, both took pride in the Chamber’s programs on behalf of military families. Gregoire praised Rogers for taking the initiative, while Rogers praised Gregoire, a veteran, for lending his public support early on.

“I grew up in Everett,” Gregoire said. “Snohomish County is part of my life. I’m excited to see your success. These are hard times, but you get the sense that this state can work through them, with attitudes like yours.”

Donna Leifer first joined the Chamber in 1996, but her history with the Marysville community dates back to her birth. She described Rogers as conscientious in her role, and recalled how different the Marysville was that she grew up in.

“This was all trees, on both sides of the road,” Leifer said. “Marysville was just a small town for so many years, but it really came of age with the Tulalip Tribes’ development, and the Chamber has been very much a part of that. I love this community. I’ve traveled the world, but I always come back to Marysville.”

Once the evening’s ceremonies started, Rogers and Aldrich found themselves on the receiving end of a series of proclamations, from Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, Tulalip Tribes Chair Mel Sheldon Jr., Snohomish County Council member Dave Somers and Executive Director Peter Camp, Heather Villars of WorkForce Development Council Snohomish County, and “First Mike” Gregoire.

Kendall noted that the Chamber is the only one in the nation to have partnered with a sovereign nation, making it a role model for diversity by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He also joined Rogers and Gregoire in lauding the Chamber’s Military Family Friendly Partnership Initiative.

“When Caldie came to us, it began a relationship that’s come to mean so much,” Sheldon said. “I’m pleased that I recognize so many of the people who are here tonight. A lot of people have been involved in this, so let’s remember them as we continue our relationship.”

Villars expressed gratitude to the Chamber for helping to bring “high-wage jobs” to Snohomish County, while Gregoire told the crowd that the Chamber was at the forefront of the “phenomenal change that’s sweeping the whole area.” U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen drew laughs by admitting that he has no power to issue proclamations, but he also complimented the Chamber for being the only jointly tribal/non-tribal chamber in the country.

“This is our kick-off for 2009,” Loughrey-Johnson said. “We’re looking to take you into the next 100 years, but we’re asking you to keep us going and keep us strong.”

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