In 1937, as Alabama found itself recovering from the economic crisis of the Great Depression, the time had come for the business community of this great state to bring together allies of a common nature to help fulfill the need of an advocate for the men and women who helped provide the fuel of government – commerce – in all its varied forms and locations. Chambers of Commerce had long filled this role since their formation in England in the 1700s as an extension of the European craft guilds, but the realization that city and county economies were bound by more of a regional or statewide nature than had been previously led the leadership of the Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Mobile, Dothan, Tuscaloosa, Alexander City, Anniston, Selma, and Demopolis Chambers of Commerce, as well as representatives from allied organizations such as Alabama Power Co. and The Montgomery Advertiser to form what was then known as the Alabama Association of Commercial Organizations. The original intent of this group of representatives of local business communities was to “foster the commercial, industrial, and recreational welfare of the State … .”
Throughout the next decades, this organization saw changes not only in the state and its economy, but also in the group itself. It grew more and more to be representative of the needs of local Chambers, and so changed its name to the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Alabama (CCEA), to the Chamber of Commerce Executive’s Association of Alabama (CCEAA), then, struggling with identity and mission, back to CCEA.
In 1997, sixty years after its formation, and realizing that Chambers of Commerce were still the premier local business advocate, the appellation Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA) was adopted. Along with this name change began the effort to bring this alliance from a part-time, volunteer-led group of Chamber executives to a true full-time, professionally-led association that represented the needs and issues that affect the over 110 Chambers of Commerce in that make up its membership.
In 1999, after carefully marshalling funding and support, the Board of Directors of CCAA hired its first professional director to head the organization. Ralph Stacy, former Executive Director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, was hired to guide CCAA on its mission of “building a better Alabama…through strong Chambers of Commerce.” While CCAA made headway in representing the needs of local Chambers and their professional staff, as well as providing training and conference opportunities for all Alabama Chambers, the potential of the strength of local Chambers came to the forefront with the hiring of William J. “Billy” Canary as the President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA).
The BCA was formed in 1985 with the merger of the Alabama Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Alabama. The BCA is recognized as the State Chamber for Alabama by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. BCA and CCAA had always maintained cordial relations, but the linkage between local Chambers and BCA was somehow incomplete it its delivery method.
Canary, former White House staffer under President George H.W. Bush, and former President of the American Trucking Associations, immediately began forging a stronger alliance with CCAA through increased interaction and participation in local Chamber events and with local Chamber executives. This led to the formation in late 2003 of The Partnership, a formal document signed by BCA and CCAA leadership, which linked for the first time, the power of BCA’s 5,000 members with the nearly 60,000 local businesses represented by Chambers. This has created a voice for business unlike any other in America.
Not only was this a bold move by both organizations, it also proved to be the first of its kind in America. It has been recognized by both the U.S. Chamber and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives as being a unique program, and is currently under implementation in other states as a model for state Chamber association operations.
In May 2012, the CCAA Board of Directors hired Jeremy L. Arthur, as the President and CEO. Jeremy was previously the President of the Prattville (AL) Area Chamber of Commerce and a former CCAA Board member. He continues the traditions of CCAA while setting new goals for the future of the ever-growing association.
Today, CCAA, BCA, and the combined efforts of The Partnership remain dedicated to advancing the goal that chambers of commerce are the premier local business advocates in the State of Alabama. Through the efforts mentioned above, the collective organizations represent the interests and concerns of over one million working Alabamians every day.
For more information on CCAA:
Please contact our office at 334-264-2112
The Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama:
“driving prosperity through stronger chambers of commerce in Alabama.”