The Greater Olean Chamber of Commerce enters 2006 celebrating a record membership of 800, and 100 years of experience unifying and enhancing the entire business community.  The Chamber of Commerce was organized as a "board of trade in 1885." An early effort by the Chamber’s predecessor was a small booklet designed to attract business to Olean and share the city’s many benefits with prospective residents and businesses. The "prospectus" described "Olean, the thriving metropolis, nestling at the junction of the Allegheny River and Olean Creek."  E.E. Alderman, secretary of the Board of Trade, was sure to make a distinction so that people realized this book was essentially a marketing tool.  "This booklet is not presented as an art or literary production, but is simply to answer a few of the many questions about Olean ," he is quoted. "Few people care to read large books and long articles written to set forth the advantages of any locality. Therefore the author of this little work has endeavored to answer in brief some of the most important questions asked pertaining to our city..."
 
Of course, it could be argued that the chamber of 100 years ago had a slightly easier chore. Olean was described as being at the "outlet of the vast timber and mining regions of Northern Pennsylvania," and is reported to have had the largest population growth of any large city in New York State between 1880 and 1890.  The publication goes on to give no less than 10 compelling answers to the question, "What makes Olean the most desirable manufacturing city in New York State ?" It beautifully details the city’s "elegant parks, wide and shady avenues, good society, fine homes, unlimited banking facilities" and, of course, its "electric street cars."
The Chamber of Commerce, in a Times Herald ad in 1950, details some of the success it has contributed to Olean ’s achievements in its early days. It also recognizes the many challenges of industry that bolstered the economy for a time before dissipating.
 
"Each change has been a challenge met and conquered, from the lumbering days, the days of the tanneries and glass plants, the oil boom and the days of railroads, Olean has prospered."  The chamber proudly tells of its role in doubling the average family buying power from $2,405 to $5,242 in only 13 years. It tells of being instrumental in attracting such industries at Clark Bros. Co., Inc.; Olean Tile Co.; and Alcas Cutlery.  The Chamber also was crucial in the city’s "Flood Control," which began as a Chamber project in 1916 and later became a federal effort completed in 1953.
 
Over its entire existence, the chamber has faced the same obstacles of changing demographics, the decline of certain industries and working in an ever-changing economical landscape; but as it has grown it now has new capabilities and new tools at its disposal.
 
Its web site, www.oleanny.com gives it a powerful presence, linking members to each other and to the rest of the region with news, events, promotions, and a vast array of information about the area, from golf courses and accommodations to demographics and genealogy. In conjunction with www.facebook.com/OleanNYChamber, cyberspace has all the information visitors, potential business interests or residents could ever want about the city.
 
The chamber’s gift certificate program is getting bigger and better all the time. By giving the gift of a GOACC gift certificate, purchasers are giving a monetary gift that can be redeemed at countless grocery stores, retail and specialty stores, and hair salons in the Olean region. In 2004, this program directed more than $280,000 in spending back into the local economy, and projections for 2005 see that number increasing dramatically.
 
Last year, the Chamber made another leap forward in its long history of partnering with other organizations in the community by helping to launch Leadership Cattaraugus. This initiative helps to identify and nurture potential leaders already living in the community.
 
The Chamber’s leadership continues the visionary and pioneering spirit of its founders, leaving no stone unturned in its quest to continue to makeOlean a vibrant community in which we can all take pride.
 
Darrell Klute
 
Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce • 716-372-4433 • info@oleanny.com