Metro Atlanta Chamber

History

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For over a century and a half, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) has worked to successfully drive positive, fundamental change in metro Atlanta and across Georgia.

1863: Western & Atlantic Railroad in Atlanta
1863: Western & Atlantic Railroad in Atlanta

In 1859, a group of 12 Atlanta businessmen organized the area's first chamber of commerce, known as the Mercantile Association. Frustrated by railroad freight discrimination, the organization rallied to protest indiscriminate rate increases. By 1867, the organization became the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Through the end of the nineteenth century, the Chamber focused on municipal reforms and construction of a public water system. It raised $2 million for the Cotton States and International Exposition that, at the time, was called Atlanta’s greatest public enterprise.

Srawing of the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition grounds
Bird's eye view drawing of the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition grounds in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia

Infrastructure was a key focus of the Chamber at the beginning of the twentieth century. Raising money and recommending bonds for waterworks, sewage disposal, schools, and Grady Memorial Hospital were major accomplishments at the time.

1969 view of Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
1916. View of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce building located at 67 N. Pryor Street in Atlanta, Georgia.

During this period, the Chamber also turned its focus toward marketing Atlanta to the nation. The Forward Atlanta Commission was developed to raise money for a nationwide campaign to recruit talent to “the land of opportunity.”

c.1924 Forward Atlanta Campaign
c.1924 Forward Atlanta Campaign: cartoon by A.E. Brewerton.
One of the "highway lighthouse" signals erected by the Chamber
C. 1930 Frank T. Reynolds, chairman of the highway committee of the Chamber of Commerce standing with one of the "highway lighthouse" signals erected by the Chamber at gateways to the city in Atlanta, Georgia.

The 1950s and 1960s were a transformative time in U.S. history as the Civil Rights Movement sought to end racial segregation and discrimination. In 1964, the Atlanta business community made its commitment to progress and unity clear, hosting a dinner in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize. Atlanta Mayor and former Chamber President Ivan Allen Jr., sat beside Dr. King and Coretta Scott King in a proud, historic moment for Atlanta.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King, and Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr.
1965: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King, and Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. during a banquet at the Ansley Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The mid-to-late nineteenth century saw continued efforts by the Chamber to improve infrastructure by heading campaigns to finance school, road, and sewage system improvements. In 1964, the passage of a regional rapid transit amendment set the stage for the creation of a five-county authority evolving into today’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).

1977: Artist's conception of the interior of the Marta Five Points Station
1977: Artist's conception of the interior of the Marta Five Points Station with the Eiseman Building facade incorporated to the right side of the picture.

The 1990s through early 2000s were an important time for growth and recruitment of companies, including Fortune 500 headquarters such as Georgia-Pacific, General Electric, Newell Rubbermaid, and UPS.

1986: Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Executives break ground on the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce building.
1986: Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Executives break ground on the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce building.

Also during this period, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce helped put Atlanta on the international stage by providing seed money for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games bid. The development of Centennial Olympic Park and the expansion of the Chamber building played an important role in the preparation for the Games.

In addition to recruiting major companies and organizations to metro Atlanta, the turn of the 21st century was an important time in driving Georgia’s business-friendly environment. In 2003, the Metro Atlanta Chamber was instrumental in changing Georgia’s state flag and saving Grady Memorial Hospital.

1996: Atlanta hosts the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Centennial Olympic Park.
1996: Atlanta hosts the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Centennial Olympic Park. View of the Atlanta Chamber in background.

In recent years, MAC has provided leadership for transportation funding, led the Clean Water Initiative, and the fight to defeat religious exemption legislation to defend Georgia’s reputation as the #1 state in the U.S. for business.

2016: Former Chamber President, Gerald Bartels, current Chamber President Hala Moddelmog, and former Chamber president Sam Williams bid farewell to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Building.

Today, with the move to its new headquarters, 191 Peachtree Tower, the Metro Atlanta Chamber serves as a catalyst for a more vibrant and prosperous region. Its vision is to position Atlanta as a top tier global region through job growth, advocacy for a business-friendly environment, and attraction and retention of a dynamic workforce.