Nothing is more fundamental to the work of the Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce than spearheading the recruitment of businesses to relocate to our region. Three months ago Johnna Reeder and Tammy Riddle of REDI, the region’s new economic development agency recently spun out of the Chamber, led a group to Israel, the third such trip in the last few years. They met with Israeli companies in the technology, biomedical and pharmaceutical areas.
The Chamber has sponsored foreign trade trips like this for over a century. A beautifully produced 1913 brochure entitled “Winter Outings on Summer Seas,” took a group of 50 businessmen and their wives on a three week tour of the Caribbean. The brochure promised “special arrangements for the ladies,” reflecting the assumption that all the business leaders would be men. In 1913, no could have imagined a woman business leader, much less a trade delegation headed by two women.
The Chamber’s Trade Expansion Committee and fulltime Foreign Trade Secretary designed the tour to focus on Colon, at the western end of the Panama Canal. Construction on the canal was nearing completion and expectations were sky high. The brochure called the canal one of the Seven Wonders of the World that would usher in one of the “most important epochs in history.”
After Colon, the tour stopped at a United Fruit Company (Chiquita) banana plantation on Jamaica, a sugar mill in Havana and cigar factories in Key West, Florida.
A related 1920 brochure targeted at manufacturers who might consider relocating to Cincinnati was published by the Industrial Expansion Department of the Chamber. The cover emphasized smoke from coal furnaces pouring from downtown factories and river packets. A modern reader might be appalled by the pollution, but in 1920 all that smoke signaled prosperity.
Inside, the centerfold utilized an illustration that may seem primitive by 21st century graphic standards, but was an early version of an illustration the Chamber still uses today designed to make it appear that Cincinnati is the real center of the United States.
By Dan Hurley, local historian, host of the weekly “Local 12 Newsmakers” program and former director of Leadership Cincinnati for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
This is the seventh in a series of 12 essays about the history of the Chamber and Cincinnati business, to commemorate the Chamber’s 175th anniversary.