Organized in 1940
The Oxford Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1940. Originally, the chamber’s purpose was to:
“..advance industrial expansion, livestock improvement, marketing, agricultural development, farm to market roads in every community in the county, the civic interest of Oxford and Lafayette county and beautification of public places and highways; to promote integrity and good faith; to acquire, preserve and distribute industrial, commercial and civic statistics and information of value; to work for the best interest of every person in Lafayette County; and to cooperate in representing our city and county in the promotion of every enterprise for the development of our state and nation.”
1940 Constitution and By-Laws Committee
- T. H. McElroy, Chairman
- John Lee Gainey
- R. L. Smallwood, Jr.
- Phil Stone
- Mrs Hazel Shelton
Past Presidents and Locations
Since the late forties, the president position has been filled consecutively each year. There have been 2 Avents, 2 Elliotts, and 3 Phillips. Current Rotarians who are past presidents include Johnny Morgan, Jesse Phillips, Sherwin Haynie, Vicki Sneed, Harry Sneed, and John Fullenwider. Past Executive Directors are Bob McClain, Col Hoar, Col. Baker, Garner Devoe, and Lou Zender. The offices have been housed in Law Offices, the alley off Rebel Press, The Bank of Oxford, The Baker Building, and its current Headquarters on Jackson Avenue West.
The Early Years
In the early years, the Chamber spearheaded such things as the bond issue election which brought Chambers Range here, Emerson Electric, Georgia Pacific, and in many cases partnering with the local banks to buy and sell land in the name of the Chamber of Commerce to facilitate transfers.
Birth of the Industrial Foundation
In the early 1980’s the Chamber recognized that they could not be competitive in the economic development arena without a budget which would allow them to compete for industry. The Industrial Foundation was borne about 1981 and the city and county contributed to the economic development efforts. In 1992, a new organization, the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation was formed which is a larger, more formal organization, utilizing public-private partnership to fund the economic development efforts of the community.
The Chamber Today
The functions of the chamber have not changed much through the years. The Chamber operates to support local businesses and improve the quality of life for citizens in Oxford and Lafayette County. This may be through seminars, focused events, leadership programs, or other means. Dues for a business membership have gone up from $26 per year to a base of $180 per year. A strong economy is at our basic business, same as it was in 1940. Today, the Chamber uses the internet and interactive CD’s to tell our story, as well as dispersing information instantaneously through a website and via email.
The Chamber has grown from a small group of businesses to over 550 members. The staff has grown from a volunteer president in his office to a staff of 5 people who respond to thousands of annual inquiries in the form of phone calls, walk-ins, letters, and emails.
Additionally, the Economic Development Foundation and Chamber staffs have been combined for everyday efficiency and for routine matters common to both functions.