Chamber History

The Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 119th anniversary in 2017.

At last Hilo has got what she has been looking for,” reported The Hawaii Herald on September 8, 1898, “a genuine Chamber of Commerce, built on a foundation that will withstand any petty jealousies or factional differences that may arise in the community.” At the time, Hilo had about 12,000 residents. The Hilo area businesses included 24 sugar companies and two lumber companies.

The Chamber started from an idea of Dr. Philip Rice’s that there be a businessmen’s club in Hilo. The idea of a club was abandoned in favor of a Chamber of Commerce. Rice served as Chairman.

Perhaps the Chamber languished for a couple years, because the Hawaii Herald again reported on March 19, 1904 “Hilo is to have a Chamber of Commerce composed of representative businessmen and through them the needs of Hilo may be presented to the Federal and Territorial governments. (Hawaii was a U.S. Territory until l959.)

A new name was selected for the organization, the newspaper reported a few days later—the Board of Trade. Dr. John Holland was the prime mover.

The organization took strong positions, such as for the breakwater in 1904, and applauded the establishment of County governments in 1905.

Still as the Board of Trade, in 1912, the Chamber called for incorporation of Hilo, and in 1913, supported creation of a national park around Kilauea Volcano. In 1916, it supported a Federal Building for Hilo, which was completed the next year.

In the early 1930s, when Hilo had about 13,000 residents and Hawaii Island’s population was about 77,000, the organization had 170 members.

In 1948, the name was changed again, this time to what it remains today, the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce.