The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
If your wonk meter redlines when you hear “chamber of commerce,” we get it. A group of business leaders working to boost a city’s economy isn’t all that sexy. But over the past 150 years, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been responsible for some pretty sweet additions to the Mile High City. On the anniversary of its sesquicentennial (November 13), we highlight some of the agency’s greatest hits.
1867: RAILROAD CRUSADER
When Union Pacific decided to build a transcontinental railroad through Cheyenne instead of Denver, the city was in danger of becoming a ghost town. Concerned for the Mile High City’s future, a group of prominent local businessmen formed the Denver Board of Trade (rebranded as a chamber of commerce in 1884) and raised $300,000 to build a 100-mile connector to the Wyoming tracks.
1884: BOOK REPOSITORY
The chamber housed Denver’s first public library—dubbed the Mercantile Library—in its original headquarters at 14th and Lawrence streets. By the time control of the library moved to a board of directors in 1898, the Mercantile had amassed more than 32,000 titles.
1915: TOURIST TRAPPER
Chamber members built trout ponds for Denver’s newly established mountain parks systems.
1927: FLIGHT FAN
In the mid-1920s, a chamber committee helped secure land for the region’s first airport. Two years later, Denver Municipal Airport—eventually known as Stapleton International Airport—was ready for takeoff. (The chamber was also an early advocate for DIA.)
1941: SKI TRAIN SPONSOR
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, steam engines ran from Denver to many mountain towns. The chamber, along with the Denver metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, helped sponsor the route to Aspen during the prestigious National Downhill and Slalom Championship.
1969: BUS DRIVER
White flight during the ’50s and ’60s triggered the development of Denver suburbs. In response, the chamber helped create the Regional Transportation District, which started with bus lines to the ‘burbs.
1988: CULTURAL BENEFACTOR
The bulk of the city’s cultural institutions rely partly on funding from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. The chamber spent $50,000 on ads in support of the 1988 ballot measure, which upped sales taxes by one-tenth of a percent within the seven-county metro area (62.5 percent of you voted to renew it last year.)
1990-1991: TEAM PLAYER
When MLB announced plans to add two teams to the National League, chamber members worked with Colorado’s Baseball Advisory Committee to successfully pitch a franchise in Denver.
2016: WORKFORCE DEVELOPER
The chamber’s Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative helps Coloradans between the ages of 16 and 24 jump-start their careers. Through a partnership with 24 nonprofits, the program provides paid internships and covers the costs of transportation and child-care services during work hours.