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Museum honors Chamber’s 60-year ‘Legacy of Leadership’

By CJ HADDAD - | May 27, 2021

The "Legacy of Leadership" exhibit, which honors past Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce presidents and features pictures, news clippings, and unique-to-the-chamber items on display, is open to the public and runs until Aug. 21 at the Cape Coral Museum of History at Cultural Park.

In a rapidly growing city where the small business community is the backbone of the economy, the Cape Coral Museum of History is honoring an organization instrumental in elevating Cape businesses to where they are today.

In honor of their 60th anniversary, the museum opened the “Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral Legacy of Leadership” exhibit Thursday night, depicting decades of growth and dedication.

“Our chamber has such a unique history,” said Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President and CEO Donna Germain. “It’s been fun to go through our history and a great exercise for us as a chamber to document everything and obtain all of our historical information. To go back through the decades — it’s amazing to see the growth and how things changed and evolved, and all who have played a role.”

The exhibit, which honors past presidents and features pictures, news clippings, and unique-to-the-chamber items on display, is open to the public at the museum and runs until Aug. 21.

“If anybody has ever been a part of the chamber, you’ll get a kick out of what’s in the exhibit,” Germain said. “It’ll be fun for our members, past members and volunteers to reminisce.”

What business owners and industry professionals know today started with a few like-minded individuals talking over coffee in 1961.

The first rendition of today’s chamber was dubbed the Cape Coral Merchants Association, started by Edward Quirk.

“They wanted to do something and have some sort of organization though the businesses in a brand new city,” Germain said. “Cape Coral wasn’t even incorporated yet. There were about 75 businesses in Cape Coral at the time. The vision (Quirk) had and what he wanted to do for the businesses is really kind of cool with such a small amount of businesses in the city at the time.”

The group expanded rapidly, as things seem to do quite often in the Cape, and was even responsible for the funding behind the first street lights in the city along Cape Coral Parkway.

The Cape Coral Merchants Association then was renamed to the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce in 1965 and received their state charter.

It wasn’t until late 1987 when they decided (by a slim vote margin) to merge with the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce to form the Chamber of Southwest Florida (still in existence).

The merger was short-lived and, in early 1989, members in Cape Coral split to form what we know today as the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral.

The Chamber of Southwest Florida still owned the Welcome Center (where the chamber now operates) after the split and it was eventually bought back in 1994.

A lot has happened over 60 years in a still rapidly growing city.

“The exhibit showcases how the chamber has impacted the business community in the area and become not only their business partners, but their advocates to continue their business successfully in Cape Coral,” said museum president, former chamber president and current chamber chair of governmental affairs and Cape councilmember, Gloria Tate. “The chamber is more than a Better Business Bureau, the chamber is a community of business owners who come together to represent their business in a growing community where they can provide resources, they become community partners for events, and also learn about government issues going on in their city that will affect their businesses.”

For more information on the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, visit www.capecoralchamber.com

The Cape Coral Historical Museum is at 544 Cultural Park Blvd.

For tour times, ticket rates, hours, memberships and more, visit www.capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj