The Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce serves its members by encouraging profitable enterprise and social progress for the benefit of our community.
February, 1948: The Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce had its beginning at Wooten’s home at a dinner meeting with a majority of the businessmen present at the expense of Mr. J. D. Morris who presided and presented the idea that Wake Forest businessmen were in need of a Chamber of Commerce. ‘The idea was accepted and upon invitation of Mr. H. L. Miller we had our next meeting in Mr. Miller’s garage enjoying a chicken BBQ with some 20 or 40 businessmen present at which time we elected seven for a board of directors to form and set up the organization of the Chamber and to work out the details of its first year of operation. The directors elected were J. D. Morris, G. V. Barbee, J. W. Hollowel, H. L. Miller, W. L. Glover, W. W. Holding III and C. D. Matheny.’
The issue at hand during this time was bringing a hospital to the area. There was a bond of $4,000,000 for hospital improvements. In August 1952 some of the Chamber board members (H. L. Miller, Ralph Cruser, W. S. Allen) met with representatives of the Bank of Fuquay Springs and started the ‘wheels of progress’ towards the hospital. A corporation was set up and sites were reviewed for the proposed 25-30 bed hospital. The estimated cost would be $10,000 per bed. The money would be available from the county bond issue. The hospital would serve approximately 12,000 to 15,000 people per year in Wake Forest, Rolesville, and Youngsville. (Note: The hospital came and was viable in our community, but closed when the county reorganized their hospital system to ‘for profit’.)
In the 60′s the Chamber’s main thrusts were to attract new industry to the Town and to develop ways to handle requests for information about Wake Forest with a new brochure. The Chamber board (led by then-President John Wooten) and members worked very hard to attract new industry. They spent a lot of time working with the NC Department of Conservation & Development, as well as visits with Schrader plant officials in New York, in order to get the plant in Wake Forest. While Mr. Wooten celebrated the achievement of getting the Schrader Plant to locate in Wake Forest, he also reminded the members and board that they should not forget the established industries in Town.
In the 1970′s, the Chamber saw a need for more doctors in the area. They formed a committee in 1974 to spearhead a county-wide effort to attract new doctors to the Town.
Also, during this decade, the Chamber board spent a lot of time reviewing the needs of the members, and how to strengthen the Chamber for the projected growth in the community. Other areas of concern were the waste treatment facility’s capacity, more extended phone service, a shopping center for the downtown area, increased recreation opportunities, and improved schools.
The Chamber was growing and doing more than ever before. It was during this time the ‘growing’ pains of their facility became a major issue. The Chamber had been located in the old train depot for a number of years; the location was not ideal because of inaccessibility. The old fire station was purchased, and the new Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce building became a reality.
The Chamber experienced steady growth in the 1990’s. The Body Shop came to Wake Forest in 1990 through efforts of local business people who worked with the NC Department of Commerce to bring them to our community.The Chamber became a hub of information for new businesses, residents, and visitors. Many new initiatives and programs were developed during this time. The Community Business Expo, the Annual Spelling Bee (designed to raise grant money for area teachers), and Women in Business were all created during the 1990’s. By the late 1990’s, the Chamber had a full-time staff of three to serve its growing membership.
The beginning of the 21st Century marked continued excitement for the Chamber. From 2000-2007, the Chamber doubled its membership, added even more benefits to the growing membership, added an annual sponsorship program (Chamber Champions) to support the work of the organization throughout the year, and conducted the largest fundraiser in the Chamber’s history. Fundraising efforts in this time period of tripled!
With a membership of over 700, the Wake Forest Area Chamber serves as the “voice of business” in Northern Wake County. In early 2004, the Board of Directors approved a comprehensive long-range plan to guide the organization in the years ahead. The long-range plan focuses on three core areas for the Chamber: member services, government affairs, and business development.
The roles that the Chamber plays in the community are never ending and ever changing. The work of so many people is the great foundation of the Chamber’s strong organization today. We appreciate the vision, hard work, and dedication of our members in the past decades. With continued volunteer support and strong leadership, the best days for the Wake Forest Chamber and community are yet to come!