The McAllen Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1925 and is one of the longest standing organizations in the Rio Grande Valley community.
The chamber’s earliest roots date back even further to 1911 when it was known as the McAllen Business Men’s Club. One of the club’s initial projects was installing a horse watering trough on Main Street to draw customers to city businesses. Under the slogan, “We Pull Together,” the club provided free Saturday night silent movies to bring area farmers and settlers into town. The club also worked on filling mud holes on roads and getting bridges built across canals so shoppers could get to McAllen.
As commerce increased in McAllen, the club’s need to become a chartered institution arose. On December 7, 1925, a meeting was held in the McAllen High School auditorium. It was decided that club members paying $5 would be able to sign a document that was going to be sent to Austin, Texas. This resulted in the McAllen Chamber of Commerce officially becoming a chartered institution.
The Chamber housed McAllen’s first library, a Study Club endeavor. In 1934, Paul Vickers became Chamber Secretary and managed the organization for 25 years. He was called the ‘father of winter tourism’ and his work stimulated economic growth. Vickers established the Old Timers Club in 1947 to assemble the facts of McAllen’s early days directly from its pioneers. His secretary Ruth Clark compiled a scrapbook with collections of newspaper clippings and typewritten original accounts of the history of McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley. The scrapbook gained notoriety and was housed at the McAllen Chamber before being moved to the McAllen Public Library special collections.
The Chamber has long fostered economic and cultural development. An initiative in the 1960’s to diversify the economy led by Chamber Board members resulted in the creation of the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone #12 in 1973. Hundreds of businesspeople contributed $1,000 each to make the FTZ a reality and boost international trade.
Throughout the organization’s history, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has been a catalyst for projects and activities that improve the quality of life and the business climate of the city. Today, we are the largest chamber in a 15-county area with a Five-Star Accreditation by the U.S Chamber of Commerce.
Source: McAllen: A Bicentennial Reflection, 1974-75; McAllen: Leading the Way, 2011.