BAY ST. LOUIS -- The Hancock County Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 90th anniversary Thursday night at the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club.
The chamber was first organized in 1925 by the Bay St. Louis Rotary Club. It began as a city organization, the Bay St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, until it grew to a countywide effort and changed its name in 1945.
The nonprofit organization is an economic-development partner with elected officials, tourism leaders, the Port & Harbor Commission, Partners for Stennis Space Center, Infinity Science Center and local media, Executive Director Tish Williams said.
"Chambers are often perceived as being for the elite," Williams said. "Yet most chamber members aren't rich. They are individuals, rich or poor, who put their heads together and change their communities in fascinating ways."
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One of the first projects endorsed by the Rotary Club and the chamber was the 1926 seawall. The latest was the new Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor.
Over the past four years, the Chamber of Commerce has secured more than $6.5 million in grants for the community and spearheaded notable building projects such as the Beach Boulevard Scenic Byway and the museum/visitors center at NASA's Stennis Space Center.
"When you look at our community, you must pause to ask yourself, 'What would our community look like today if the efforts of our local chamber could somehow be removed from our past?'" Williams said.
The Hancock County Chamber of Commerce has 1,500 members, making it the largest nonprofit trade organization in the area, representing more than 10,000 employees.