Naperville was first settled in 1831 by Captain Joseph Naper and his brother, John. In 1857, the Village of Naperville was incorporated and became a city on March 17, 1890. From a population of 2,600 in 1900, Naperville has become one of the fastest-growing communities in the Midwest with a current population of 148,000 +. Over this span of time, Naperville has expanded brilliantly into a city of overwhelming economic growth. The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in the city’s growth over the years.
The Chamber of Commerce was originally founded in 1913 as the Naperville Association of Commerce. Through the commitment and involvement of its Members, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce continues to provide business leadership for the benefit of the Naperville community.
Among the Chamber’s many accomplishments over the years, the following are indicative of the influence the Chamber has had in Naperville.
Chamber historical highlights
1917: The Naperville Association of Commerce worked to improve the city’s streets and sidewalks in order to ‘get out of the mud,’ worked to improve the state highway running through Naperville, and supported the Sanitarium Development (predecessor to Edward Hospital). The Association was also approached about letting women join the organization during this year. However, this request was tabled in order to avoid the issue.
1918: The Association of Commerce Membership reach 65 Members as the population of Naperville grew to 5,917, making Naperville the largest city in DuPage County. During this year, the Association worked to keep street alleys clean downtown, fought against freight rate increases, and appointed a transportation committee to correspond with the County Superintendent of Roads about improving the highways leading into Naperville.
1919: The Association passed a resolution asking the City of Naperville to offer free electrical power to any new industries considering locating in Naperville.
1920: The Association of Commerce met with Chicago Burling-ton and Quincy Railroad to discuss the purchase of Burlington Park to be designated a Forest Preserve. This year also saw the Naperville Association form the Building and Loan Association in order to increase housing availability in the city.
1922: A committee was created to study the water supply situation in Naperville “which is serious and needs prompt attention.”
1923: The improvement of Postal services and the need for more street signs in order for visitors to find their way more easily through town were addressed by the Association.
1924: This year saw the Association of Commerce sponsor the City’s July 4th celebration and help fund the Naperville Municipal Band. Membership dues for 1924 stood at $2.00 per Member.
1925: A recommendation for the restructuring of city addresses was made by the Association. The organization also financially supported the beautification of riverside property in Naperville.
1926: The Association of Commerce recommended the formation of a Naperville Park District.
1927: The Association raised money for a clock set and bells for Ss. Peter and Paul Church. Membership dues were raised this year to $5.00 per Member.
1928: Naperville saw its first Dollar Day Sale, thanks in part to those at the Association of Commerce. During this year, the Association planned for a Centennial Celebration in Naperville, suggested an airport be established in the city, tried to replace the Washington Street bridge, and worked with a group in Chicago to prepare for the World’s Fair celebration in 1933.
1929: The Association worked to establish a paved Highway going south (IL 59). The organization also proposed the establishment of a Naperville Park District again, proposed the purchase of Von Oven Quarries for swimming, and planned the start of a Community Chest (United Way).
1930: The Association worked on addressing the unemployment in Naperville and raised money for the city’s Centennial celebration program. The road committee was also able to get Chicago Avenue paved from Lisle to Naperville.
1931: The Naperville Association of Commerce saw its Membership fall to 48. During the year, the Association sponsored several events to raise money for the Naperville Relief Society.
1932: The Association worked to bring manufacturers to Naperville and decided to lower its Members’ dues from $5.00 to $2.00 per Member.
1934: The Naperville National Bank was established with the help of the Association of Commerce.
1935: The Association worked to lower city electric rates and to obtain a movie theater.
1936: The Naperville Association of Commerce helped bring a new post office to Naperville.
1938: Membership dues were raised to $25.00 per business and $5.00 per person. This year also saw the first part-time secretary hired by the Association of Commerce.
1947: The Naperville Association of Commerce had changed its name to the Naperville Chamber of Commerce. During the next few years, the Chamber was instrumental in putting together the city’s Fourth of July and Christmas programs
1956: The Chamber became a corporation as provided by the General Not-for-Profit Corporation Act of Illinois.
1958: The Chamber of Commerce endorsed a plan by the Burlington Northern Railroad to establish the Burlington Industrial Park and worked to solve the com-muter/downtown parking problem.
1961: The Chamber helped organize the Downtown Retail Council. The Greeter Service was also started during this year.
1962: Downtown rezoning was supported and a new Industrial Committee was formed to help attract new companies to the area.
1964: The first full-time Executive Director of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce was hired. The Chamber also helped settle Bell Labs in the area and started publishing the official Chamber bulletin, “Napernotes.”
1965: The Chamber helped set up the Downtown Development Committee, joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and began publishing an annual Membership directory.
1966: In December, the Naperville Park District was finally organized with the help of the Chamber.
1967: The Chamber moved its offices from 5 W. Jefferson to 232 S. Washington.
1968: The Chamber changed its name to the Greater Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.
1969: To the great dismay of many Naperville children, the Chamber studied the possibilities of a 12-month school year.
1970: A new logo and better ways to sell the Chamber to the community were discussed. The year also saw an ‘Ambassadors Club’ proposed, with the intent of meeting having individuals ‘sell’ the Chamber.
1971: The Chamber formed an Industrial Commission was to encourage industrial development.
1972: The Chamber helped bring an Ambulance Service to Naperville.
1973: The Chamber discussed bringing a mental health and family counseling center to the area and became the branch office for the Fox Valley Chapter of SCORE.
1974: The Chamber began an effort to attract new commercial and research industries to Naperville and supported the proposed downtown re-development plan sponsored by CAN/DO and the City of Naperville.
1975: In an attempt to help solve parking problems in the downtown area, the Chamber suggested issuing parking tokens for meters in downtown Naperville.
1976: The Chamber helped coordinate a Business Industry Education Day, supported a health insurance program for its Members and started a Building and Development Committee.
1977: The Chamber supported an eastern north-south bypass road (Naper Blvd.), published a Community Events Guide and adopted a ‘Spirit of Cooperation’ resolution designed to help City Council and the Chamber to work together to develop orderly growth in our community.
1978: This year the Chamber of Commerce supported a Tollway Interchange at IL 59 and helped Kroehler employees to find new jobs.
1979: The Chamber office moved back to the downtown area. While there, the Chamber opposed the Historic District in the Central Business District.
1980: The Building and Development Committee began work on trying to get a larger post office built in Naperville. The Chamber also supported comprehensive zoning and opposed the city purchase of the Kroehler buildings.
1981: The Naperville Jaycees took over the Chamber’s responsibility of coordinating the Labor Day “Last Fling” celebration.
1982: The Board of Directors opposed the creation of a Historic District and supported the expansion of the Springbrook Water Treatment Center. Business After Hours were also started during this year.
1983: The Chamber of Commerce, along with North Central College, sponsored the first Community Leadership Program. The Chamber also moved its offices into the Sun Building at 9 W. Jackson and purchased its first computer.
1984: ChamberNet, a computer-based referral service for Cham-ber Members and the public was organized and Chamber Membership reaches the 500 Member mark.
1985: The Chamber of Commerce opposed the City of Naperville’s restriction of building permits because of a perceived lack of water. Eventually the dispute was taken to court where the courts ruled against the city. Also during this year, a business retention program was started and the Chamber helped Naperville be named the 14th Certified City in Illinois.
1986: the first two-day Business Expo was held, Membership eclipsed 900 firms and the Chamber supported the construction of a parking deck in the downtown area.
1987: The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce became one of the largest Chambers in the State of Illinois as its Membership reached 1,000.
1988: The Chamber started the Small Business Council and continued fighting against impact fees on the city and county levels.
1989: The Chamber of Commerce formed a partnership with the DuPage County Convention and Visitors Bureau, lobbied for the widening of Route 59, and produced its first video about the Naperville area.
1990: The Chamber published its first Visitor’s Guide, organized the Small Business Showcase and started ‘Good Morning Naperville,’ a monthly breakfast.
1991: In just one day, the Chamber held ‘Calling for Commerce,’ a Membership blitz, and gained 60 new Members in only an eight-hour span During the year, the Chamber also helped fight legislation trying to significantly increase business property taxes in DuPage County.
1992: The Chamber worked on an Employer Trip Reduction Program and changed the newsletter’s name to “Opportunities.”
1993: Throughout the year, the Chamber of Commerce worked with the City of Naperville to focus on important economic development issues. The Chamber also changed its logo.
1994: With the help of its Health Care Council, the Chamber was allowed to offer its Members a cooperative health care purchasing program. The Chamber also moved to 131 W. Jefferson.
1995: The Chamber established a home page on the Internet, received a $10,000 grant to initiate a drug-free workplace program for Chamber Members, and with the help of AT&T, offered discounted long-distance telephone rates for Chamber Members.
1996: The Chamber of Commerce started the year off by creating a vision statement, adopting a new mission statement and rewriting its goals. The year also saw the Naperville Chamber and Jones Intercable help those victims of the Flood of ‘96 by holding a Flood Relief Telethon. In addition, Tech Show ‘96, a technology exposition, was held for the first time.
1997: The Chamber announced its 2,000 by 2000 campaign. With a Membership of 1,200 the Chamber needed to add 30 Members every month to achieve this number by the end of the financial year 2000. An Employee Assistance Program was also introduced as a result of a partnership with Linden Oaks Hospital, and the first Leadership Academy was launched.
1998: The very first Small Business of the Year Awards event. The winner was Hitchcock Landscape Design Group.
1999: From his hospital room at the Mayo Clinic, Walter Payton gave an inspirational address via telephone to an audience at Expo ’99. The Chamber introduced the International Council to meet the needs of Members focused on the global economy. Membership reached over 1,700 this year, on target for 2,000 by 2000.
2000: The Chamber reached its goal of 2,000 Members. The Chamber survived the Y2K scare and made great strides in technology upgrades, mainly computer software, to meet the ever-increasing demands of serving its Membership.
2001: The Chamber helped in the formation of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, a new organization designed to meet the marketing and infrastructure needs of downtown businesses and property owners. Once again it upgraded its software and hardware to meet the ever-increasing needs of its Membership. The Chamber participated in President Bush’s $1.35 million tax relief coalition. It also introduced the popular Mentor-Protégé Program, in response to the needs of its Membership.
2002: Noted speaker and author, Jack Canfield, creator of the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books kick off a highly-successfully series of “Peak Performance” programs. The South Chamber Alliance, designed to service our growing Membership in the southern region of Naperville and surrounding communities, was launched.
2003: The Chamber made plans to move from its current suite of offices to an expanded headquarters in the new Main Street Promenade building being constructed on Main Street downtown. We increased our legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of our Members, working closely with local, state and national lawmakers.
2004: It was a year of change for the Chamber in 2004. In February, the Chamber moved into its new office space to 55 South Main Street in the Main Street Promenade. As part of that move, the Chamber rented office space to six tenants and began a working partnership for building management; the Chamber also received generous donations for the Fund the Future Campaign to cover moving expenses and capital investments. In May, the Chamber’s marketing department implemented a new logo and tagline. The Chamber also successfully launched a new website which enhanced marketing capabilities for our Members and community. The Chamber was recognized for its excellence with three prestigious ACE Awards.
2005: The Board approved and implemented a new membership model, Business Connect, which significantly changed the ‘one size fits all’ Membership culture. Additionally, the Naperville Area Chamber Political Action Committee (NACPAC), a separate organization responsible for advocating and furthering the legislative agenda of the Chamber, was approved, organized and began its fundraising efforts. To celebrate the 175th anniversary of Naperville, the Chamber created an entirely new flagship coffee table book, 175 Years of Success. The Chamber continued to be recognized for its excellence in communications with another series of ACE awards and received high scores and honors for other programs, publications, and events.
2006: It was an exciting year for the Chamber when it was awarded 5-Star Accreditation from the US Chamber of Commerce. This made Naperville the only Chamber with such distinction in the State of Illinois. In partnership with CBS-2, the Chamber hosted a Forum for Candidates of Governor held at North Central College and was broadcast live.
2007: The end of an era was upon us when Mike Skarr announced his impending retirement at the end of the year. The Chamber Board embarked upon an ambitious 2020 Visioning process which took a full year to complete, resulting in a new Vision and Mission and a Strategic Plan to take the organization through 2020. The Chamber Board formed a search committee for a new CEO. The Chamber stepped up advocacy efforts with the highest number of delegates in Chamber history traveling to Washington, DC for the annual Business Summit. Chamber Member, My Chef Catering, was awarded U.S. Chamber Small Business of the Year during the summit.
2008: It was a busy year of transformational change for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. With the support of John Calamos Sr., the Chamber hosted two economic forecasts during difficult economic times. General James L. Jones (Ret.), later named President Obama’s National Security Advisor, advised the Chamber on the importance of implementing a new national energy policy. The Chamber scored a number of advocacy wins, including the passage of a municipal gas tax rebate program for manufacturers in town.
2009: The Chamber named longtime Naperville resident and former Chairman of the Board of Directors, John Schmitt, to succeed Richard Greene as President & CEO. In April’s local elections, the Chamber’s Political Action Committee (NACPAC), was involved in a record number of races and offered grassroots support to 18 candidates.
2010: The Chamber played a major role in helping to advocate for and stabilize area businesses in the wake of the recession. By supporting the reform of the DuPage Water Commission and eventual repeal of its sales tax, Naperville’s taxpayers, businesses and consumers were protected from excessive expenses. The Chamber took a leadership role in the campaign to overcome the objection of neighbors in support of Navistar’s move to Lisle. Navistar’s relocation secured our region’s economic future and will support several thousand jobs annually.
2011: Excellence was the goal, as the Chamber submitted for re-accreditation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber underwent a comprehensive review of all aspects of the organization, including its financial reporting procedures, governance and bylaws, membership offerings, program development, government affairs and communications to complete its application. The hard work paid off. In November the Chamber was awarded 5-Star Accreditation, the highest level possible, making Naperville one of only 75 chambers in the nation to achieve this elite status. Outside of accreditation, the Chamber had a successful year of membership, with 280 Members joining. The chamber hosted 53 ribbon cuttings, 401 events, meetings, and seminars with total attendance exceeding 7,500!
2017: The NACC went through the process of a full rebrand to be rolled out in 2018 and, it ultimately won the Hermes Creative Awards gold trophy for branding.
2018: The Future Forward Campaign brought investment dollars to fund technology and furniture upgrades throughout NACC offices.
2019: The NACC said good-bye to Nicki Anderson as President and CEO after 5 years of service and welcomed a new President and CEO, Kaylin Risvold as well as several other key staff changes in events, marketing, and member engagement.
2020: NACC completes its Future Forward Campaign, launches a new website, acquires a new CMS system, and begins strategizing for new programs that will freshen the feel of the NACC and better accommodate the rollout of their 2018 Business Forward brand messaging. The Chamber faces one of the most unique chapters in its history with the onset of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. Not only does the Chamber have to face remote working, but programming and events also turn completely virtual. The Chamber remains the voice of the Naperville Business Community through tireless efforts in advocacy for covid relief for businesses, as well as daily updates on the status of the world we live in and how it will impact the way its Members are able to do business. An enormously successful Naperville Helps! GoFundme Campaign was created to drive revenue into struggling local restaurants through the purchase of food and snacks to support area front-line healthcare, fire, and police workers. The Naperville Helps! campaign generated over $100,000 in donations to be applied directly back into the community.
2021: The NACC continued to endure the turbulent times for businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. Most signature events had to continue in a virtual or hybrid nature, dates were changed to ensure the safety of guests with rises in COVID-19 cases, and outside open-air events were the only choice for almost anything the NACC could produce. The end of 2021 saw an opening of restrictions and guidelines, only to have to postpone their 2022 gala yet again to April to meet the safety needs of the population with a holiday spike in COVID cases.
2022: The staff worked tirelessly to provide the lengthy information needed to reach a 5-Star Accreditation designation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is a designation that only 3% of the Chambers across the U.S. are able to achieve – the NACC has been 5-Star Accredited since 2002. The Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives awarded the NACC as the 2022 Illinois Chamber of the Year as well as an IACCE Certified Chamber of Commerce. Two highly regarded awards that demonstrate leadership and strength as a Chamber of Commerce.