The Brantford Board of Trade (name changed to the Chamber of Commerce in 1919) was established in 1866 under the leadership of Ignatius Cockshutt. By the time Alexander Graham Bell successfully completed the three great tests of his telephone, the Brantford Board of Trade had already been promoting local business and community interests for a decade.
One of the first concerns of the “new organization”; adequate transportation systems for local business. Among the initial orders of business in 1866 was to determine the suitability of the Grand River for navigation by large vessels.
Board members also realized very quickly the importance of railways in stimulating the local economy. In fact, Ignatius Cockshutt who remained President of the Board of Trade throughout most of the 1870’s, attended the first meeting of the Dominion Board of Trade in 1871 to emphasize the Brantford Board’s concerns about freight charges and rail service.
During its initial decade, the Board of Trade pressed for programs and policies that would make life better for the citizens of Brantford and area. A key development that resulted from the Board’s actions was Brantford’s designation as a city on May 31, 1877. With a population of approximately 10,000, the city was already widely recognized as one of Ontario’s important industrial centers.
The strength of the community throughout the 19th century was closely linked with a growing demand for the modern agricultural implements it was producing. By the end of the century, Massey Harris Co, the city’s largest employer, controlled more than half of Canada’s agricultural implementation trade, while the Cockshutt Plow Co. was known around the world for its technical innovation.
The Board realized in the years following the first World War that the cyclical nature of farm machinery was a major concern and Brantford could no longer rely on a single industrial activity as the basis for its economy. Much of the Board’s energy throughout the 50’s was directed to promoting Brantford-Brant County area and to supporting a variety of campaigns designed to diversify the industrial base.
The Board began to strengthen its role as a watchdog of government activity in the late 1960’s. As governments began to expand and increase spending, the Board began to closely monitor government programs that would make a major impact on the community, including urban renewal, the development of regional government and the city’s ward system.
In the 1980’s, the community suffered as some of the city’s major employers such as Massey Ferguson and White Farm closed their doors.The Chamber drew on more than a century of experience to continue its leadership role during these challenging days to help lead the economic recovery.
Today, more than 150 years after the birth of the organization, linking economic prosperity with quality of life remains the guiding principle of this organization that has played an essential role in the success of our community.