Chamber History

Newspaper article about the formation of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce – 1952

Resilient Spirit

Mergers, economic nightmares and even a fire couldn’t stop the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce from becoming a leader in the community. For more than 140 years, the Chamber has been the voice of business in the region.

It all started in 1869 when the Madison Business Board was established. Its mission was to advance economic development in the city and enable businesses to gather and share information and resources. The organization merged with others and grew over the years.

In 1978, the Chamber’s positive strides forward came to a sudden halt as a devastating fire destroyed its headquarters. But, the resilient staff worked tirelessly to make the Chamber flourished once again. With the dedicated support of the business community, the Chamber and its partners created new associations, many of which still flourish today.


Association renamed Madison Chamber of Commerce and members elect Arthur Towell as president.
Madison Chamber of Commerce, Madison Associations, Inc., and Madison and Wisconsin Foundation merge and rename as Madison Chamber of Commerce and Foundation.
Chamber membership reaches 1,100 members.
Chamber renamed Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce to encompass the entire Madison metropolitan area.
Two new organizations emerge from the Chamber:

Business and Education Coordinating Council, formed in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, begins as a forum for communication and interaction between business and education.
On May 4, fire destroys the Chamber’s headquarters, along with all organizational property and records.
In partnership with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Chamber forms the Wisconsin Innovation Network (WIN) to expand Wisconsin Venture Fair and High Technology Consortium efforts statewide.
Metropolitan Neighborhood Business Council of the Chamber forms, with local neighborhood associations.
Leadership Greater Madison  launches with Chamber sponsorship, designed to prepare emerging leaders to make meaningful community contributions.
Jennifer Alexander joins as Chamber president. Chamber starts MAGNET, targeting people in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, designed to attract and retain the next generation of leaders to the region.
Small Business Advisory Council forms as an advisory committee to the leadership of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor of the City of Madison.
Jennifer Alexander announces first-ever candidate endorsements for the Madison Common Council on Feb. 7. “Our goal for this election is to educate the voters on the candidates and their positions on issues that shape the business climate in Madison,” said Alexander.  “I think you’re going to see the business community more involved in the elections—and it’s only going to grow.”
Jennifer Alexander retires, and Zach Brandon is hired as Chamber President.

What Others Have Said

  • Kudos to the Chamber and the Small Business Advisory Council for the creation of the Road Construction Survival Guide. It connects the affected businesses with the city departments and the construction company in charge. The regular meetings and contact with the correct people makes a huge difference in coping.

    Teena Browder, Cork ‘n Bottle
  • My small business has a voice in local politics with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, I have a voice here. We’re all business people and we look at the bottom line. The return on investment from my Chamber membership and the advocacy it provides is far above what I get from other organizations.

    Tim Lightner, Owner, Two Men and a Truck
  • The Chamber has worked tirelessly to promote the interests of the local business community, and to create and preserve the conditions that allow businesses to thrive, for the good of the entire community. I can think of no organization that is better equipped to guide us through this time than the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, and we all owe it our full support, to our mutual benefit.

    David Stark, President, Stark Company Realtors
  • The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has been an excellent resource for my small business. The Chamber provides multiple channels for business awareness, networking opportunities and helpful educational programs. Being a member of the Chamber has really made a difference in helping expand my business visibility, growth and development in Dane County.

    John Vardallas, CAE, Founder/CEO, The American BoomeR Consulting Group