Chamber Reflects on 80 Years
posted in Chamber of Commerce on October 6, 2017
The following article is the beginning installment of a monthly article that is produced by the Waverly Chamber of Commerce. The goal of this project is to connect the Chamber with the Waverly community to showcase the great things happening in the city.
The local Waverly Chamber of Commerce has been in existence for 80 years. In those 80 years, new members have joined, leadership has changed and Waverly businesses have grown.
Larry Biddison, the Chamber’s longest-standing director, served from January 1979 to December 1989. During his time as the Chamber Director, the volunteers helped make the Chamber what it is today.
“Whenever Waverly decides they want to do something, they get behind it and they do it,” Biddison said. “We are a very progressive community.”
With that progressive attitude, Biddison noted several key accomplishments during his tenure as the Chamber Director, including hosting the fair queen contest each year, being an accredited Chamber with the US Chamber of Commerce, developing the current day Tourism Committee and attracting statewide conventions/regional meetings to come to Waverly.
For Biddison, getting people to come to Waverly is a tradition that still stands strong today.
“We are very fortunate,” Biddison said. “We draw people from all of the surrounding communities. That has been a benefit to Waverly all along.”
Another facet of Waverly’s Chamber is being an accredited Main Street community. Kathy Folkerts was the first Chair of Waverly’s Main Street program when it first got its start in 1989.
The Main Street program formed in Waverly with the help of the former Downtown Merchants Association. Former Mayor Evelyn Rathe, who was also the city’s first female Mayor, had a vision for the City.
The Main Street Iowa organization carried out that vision, which revitalized the downtown district from its struggling time in the 80s.
“We felt the importance of it was really to preserve the heart of the town,” Folkerts said. “When people come into a town, they want to know that this is a town that takes pride in their Main Street and their downtown district.”
During his tenure, Biddison noticed the involvement of the Waverly banks in the Chamber’s efforts.
Often times, banks would be positive donors to events, projects and programs put on by the Waverly Chamber.
“The banks were involved,” Biddison said. “They always had several people, at least, involved in the Chamber. Banks were good supporters.”
One of the longest-standing Chamber members, First National Bank, opened their doors in 1864.
President and CEO, Rich Carlson, believes their organization has gained tremendous benefits, because of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce.
“They’re really a good advocate for business and brings the community together,” Carlson said. “It allows us to build our relationships with others and that network is certainly important, not only for our bank, but for our staff members.”
Current Executive Director, Travis Toliver, is excited about the direction the Waverly Chamber of Commerce is heading.
With 243 business members and 36 individual investors and counting, the Chamber is growing, which enables the Chamber to continue offering services, trainings and special community events to benefit, not only business owners but the Waverly community as well.
“At the Waverly Chamber of Commerce, we are focused around creating a positive atmosphere for the entire Waverly community,” Toliver said. “Through the generous efforts of our members and individual investors, we are able to make all of what we do each year possible.”
Toliver is optimistic about the future of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce, from gaining new members to adding new events to their calendar.
Biddison also believes the future of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce is bright and that is in part to the leadership that has followed his tenure.
“The organization is in good hands,” Biddison said. “By the caliber of the Chamber directors, I can tell that things are going well for the Chamber.”
As for the Main Street Iowa component of the Waverly Chamber’s success, it is still thriving with the façade grants, the design and beautification and tourism committees and other initiatives throughout Waverly.
“I think we are a good example that if we stay the course, keep doing, charging ahead, growing and learning, we will be successful,” Folkerts said.
The mission of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce and Main Street program is to develop and sustain dynamic progressive programs which support an economic environment for businesses to thrive in while simultaneously providing a quality experience for individual residents and visitors who shop, dine and visit the Waverly community and historic downtown district.