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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, February 3, 2014, 6:05 am

Reflecting on a century of change

By Napa Chamber of Commerce

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    Napa Chamber of Commerce updateThirty-three mustaches. 25 bowties. 127 men. 1 woman. Countless decorative ferns.

    At the fifth annual Napa Chamber of Commerce banquet, held on Feb. 1, 1910, 128 Napa dignitaries looked up from their entrees and dinner rolls to capture the moment on film. These stern-faced gentlemen (and one solitary woman) were among the first to develop commerce in the Napa Valley. Today, they stare down from the wall of the chamber board room on a much different business landscape.

    Along with other local Chambers, Napa celebrated at its annual banquet in January; 2014 marks the 125th anniversary of the Napa Chamber of Commerce, and we offer a nod to the past while making plans for a prosperous future.

    At our Jan. 31 annual banquet, we officially inducted our 2014 Board of Directors including Board Chair, Chef Ken Frank. This board is packed with heavy-hitting leaders, including new representatives from the Napa Valley Vintners, Pacific Union College and Napa Emergency Women’s Services (NEWS), along with local law firm Hudson & Luros.

    And, the message is clear: In 2014, it’s all about offering Napa businesses what they want and need to succeed with relevant, cost-effective programing — providing a resource where business needs correspond with personal and professional fulfillment.

    Currently, our Board of Directors includes nine prominent business women, comprising nearly half of the seats. A century ago, that would have been unheard of. It wasn’t until 1981 when Eileen Bodnar broke the mold and became the first female board chair. Since then, nine women have followed her lead. Eileen continues to work with the Chamber as a valued Ambassador, and proudly holds on to her title of “First Lady.”

    Our membership base now consists of nearly 1,000 local businesses and organizations who are doing their best to enrich the community. Citizens like Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, whom we honored as our 2013 Citizen of the Year, are working hard to provide better resources for Napa, create jobs, and raise money for worthy causes. Locally owned businesses, like our Small Business of the Year, Gloria Curry Day Spa, are thriving. Just look around downtown and see a variety of new shops emerging. And businesses like our Large Business of the Year, Mechanics Bank, are putting their resources to good use by providing time and money to community organizations.

    In the days when PG&E cost $1 per month, a subscription to the Napa Journal was $1.50; when pivotal decisions were being made about modern commerce, the Chamber of Commerce played an instrumental role. In ledgers dating back to the 1800s, notes are made about meetings focused on local infrastructure, development of the railroad and creation of new factories along the river.

    Exactly 104 years ago, on Jan. 11, 1910, (two weeks before their annual banquet) it was written by the secretary to the chamber in the board ledger:

    “Several members expressed themselves as well pleased with the outlook for a good year for Napa, and that the Chamber of Commerce was in a position to do more effective and valuable work than ever before. Several spoke of having met new people who have recently moved to Napa County, who have expressed themselves as believing that this is the best part of the State they have seen.”

     A century of progress stands between us and those words, but the sentiment could not ring more true

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