Our History

The Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1885, its objectives being to advance the mercantile and manufacturing interests of Winston and Salem, to promote internal improvements, encourage immigration, collect and distribute information to the interest of our cities, and to discuss and regulate commercial usages, adjust differences and disputes in trade.

Descriptive Sketch of Winston-Salem: Its Advantages and Surroundings (1888)

Twenty-eight years before there was a Winston-Salem, there was a Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. Even then the business leaders of the Chamber saw that it was inevitable the two cities would be – and should be – united. They knew that Winston and Salem together could be a formidable economic and cultural force in North Carolina for decades to come. And though some fought against unification, the Chamber of Commerce, from its very beginning, worked to make it happen. Here are just few highlights from our history:
About the Chamber - History1 - Mickey Shop
1885 – The Chamber is formed, and among its membership are most of the prominent businessmen who would go on to make Winston-Salem a leading industrial city in the south, including the founders of Hanes Knitting, Hanes Hosiery and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Corporation. The Chamber was then, as it is now, a leading force in the growth of the economy and the expansion of the local business community.
1930 – The Chamber, in cooperation with the Real Estate Board and the Retail Merchants Association, forms an Industrial Commission to recruit new businesses to the area. They are successful, as Winston-Salem fares well during the Depression. From 1936 to 1937, there is a 200% expansion in industry and a 400% increase in expenditures for new manufacturing equipment. A 1938 Forbes business survey identifying and ranking the economic condition of areas around the country with a million or more inhabitants honors Winston-Salem and the surrounding communities as the “best business high spot territory” in the nation, and notes that Winston-Salem’s business index had gained 34.5% the previous year.

1946 – Western Electric opens a plant in Winston-Salem, largely through the work of Chamber of Commerce director Harry J. Krusz. By October 1946, Western Electric employs 1,600 people, 90% of whom had been hired locally. By the 1960s the company is the city’s second largest employer with 7000 employees.
About the Chamber - History3 - Hanes Aerial
1969 – The Industrial Development Department of the Chamber of Commerce reports that 27 industries have moved to the Winston-Salem area during the previous three years, bringing a combined annual payroll of $24 million.

1985 – The Chamber celebrates its 100th birthday.

1995 – The Chamber establishes the Piedmont Triad Research Park in downtown Winston-Salem. Now known as the Innovation Quarter, it is the largest urban research park in the United States.
About the Chamber - History4 Front of Chamber
1999 – The Chamber partners with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System to take over management of a business partnership program that the schools already had in place. The Chamber takes the program from 400 businesses being involved to the current tally of 1,400 business partners helping to create better schools through volunteering, mentoring and sponsorship programs.

2013 – As Winston-Salem celebrates its 100th birthday as a unified city, the Chamber moves into new offices at 411 W. Fourth Street in Winston-Salem, expanding our ability to serve members with conference rooms and other areas members can use for meetings or other business purposes.