Our History

Doing Business Since 1900

On June 1, 1900, five business leaders of Tuscaloosa had a vision of a better, growing, vibrant community and created The Commercial Club, which was the forerunner to the Chamber today.

 
1983 Aycock New

Johnnie R. Aycock

PRESIDENT
1983-2010

Quote

“The Chamber has always been about building a better community, representing the interests and views of business, developing a positive business environment, and sustaining a vibrant, healthy economy.

More importantly, The Chamber has always been about people. From the very beginning to today's 21st century organization, it has been the dedication, involvement, and commitment of business and professional people that have made the difference. It has been the willingness of volunteers to invest their time, energy, and talents in building a vibrant, quality community that has created the success of today's Chamber.

It is our hope that this page will provide you a glimpse into our history and give you an even better sense of our heritage as an organization while stimulating new visions and opportunities for the future.”

 
1900

Where it All Started: The Commercial Club

On June 1, 1900, five business leaders of Tuscaloosa had a vision of a better, growing, vibrant community and created The Commercial Club, which was the forerunner to the Chamber today. Those founding members were Robert H. Cochrane, Colonel Woolsey Finnell, Hugo Friedman, Sam Friedman, and Clayton Strickland. 

1909

Name Change

In 1909, The Commercial Club was reorganized as the Tuscaloosa Board of Trade.

1921

Chamber Officially Established

Probate Judge William Brandon signed the papers officially establishing the Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce as successor to the Tuscaloosa Board of Trade.

1927
Chamber Secures Out-of-State Manufacturer

Chamber Secures Out-of-State Manufacturer

The Chamber bought 125 acres from the City of Tuscaloosa for $10,000 and used the site by the river to convince an out-of-state business to consolidate its various operations there. The result was Gulf States Paper (now The Westervelt Company), which built a plant and added a $5,000 daily payroll to the economy.

1930
Plans for Major Veterans Hospital in Motion

Plans for Major Veterans Hospital in Motion

A major veterans hospital, a cooperative project between the Chamber and Washington, was assured in 1930. What’s known today as the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center started admitting and treating veterans on July 15, 1932, and is still in operation today.

1950
Chamber Hosts Alabama Industry Days

Chamber Hosts Alabama Industry Days

Alabama Industry Days, a Chamber program, showcased the locally made products of 31 businesses. Today, the Chamber’s Celebrate Local event is a similar model of this 1950s program. 

1958
Women’s Division Established

Women’s Division Established

In 1958, a group of women whose husbands were prominent in Tuscaloosa’s business community formed the Women’s Division of the Chamber with a goal of improving the quality of life in West Alabama.

In the 21st century, this program evolved into the Women’s Leadership Alliance, a group of civic-minded women in West Alabama who enhance their leadership skills, contribute to the community, and fulfill their personal and professional potential.

 

1968

Chamber Brings Air-Conditioned Public Transit Back

Air-conditioned public buses began running in ’68 after the Chamber intervened in a transit crisis to save the franchise. The system had been shaky, with August ’64 through April ’65 marked as a time the City was without public transportation altogether.

1975

Chamber Celebrates 75 Years

The Chamber celebrated its 75 year milestone with a Diamond Anniversary Banquet to cap 75 years of continuous leadership, with congressman Jack Edwards of Mobile as speaker.

1980
Tuscaloosa Visitors Bureau Established

Tuscaloosa Visitors Bureau Established

To close the gap of convention services, the City of Tuscaloosa contracted with the Chamber for convention services in 1980. It passed a 1% lodging tax, with most if it dedicated to convention operations, and the Tuscaloosa Visitors Bureau was born. Thirty years later, TVB merged with the Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation to form Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports (known today as Visit Tuscaloosa) in 2010. Today, Visit Tuscaloosa operates independently from the Chamber, focusing on enhancing the visitor experience and promoting local attractions.

1983
Johnnie R. Aycock Hired as President

Johnnie R. Aycock Hired as President

Hired in 1983, Aycock would go on to lead the Chamber for nearly 28 years.

1983 Fall
Leadership Tuscaloosa Established

Leadership Tuscaloosa Established

In 1983, Aycock came to Tuscaloosa from the Jackson, MS Chamber of Commerce, which has recently started its own leadership development program. Aycock turned to Dr. Malcolm Portera, Dr. Barry Mason, and The University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies, as the Chamber staff wasn’t large enough to run the program at the time. Today, Leadership Tuscaloosa is a program fully managed by the Chamber, with over 1,000 graduates and an Alumni Association.

 

January 1984
<strong>Northport and Tuscaloosa Chambers Merge</strong>

Northport and Tuscaloosa Chambers Merge

Sam Faucett led the merger of the two chambers to form Alabama’s first regional Chamber: the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

1984

Chamber Leads $2 Million Effort for Downtown Revitalization

The project included trees, shrubs, lights, brick walks and street medians. It was finished in late 1985 and spawned its own celebration of music, food and crafts named CityFest, a volunteer-led event. What began in 1984 as a party to celebrate downtown street renovations expanded, at its height, into a two-day festival with musical stages, a barbecue cook-off, a children’s area, games and exhibits. After 20 years, CityFest was discontinued in 2005.

1985
Adopt-A-School Program Established

Adopt-A-School Program Established

A cooperative venture sponsored by Tuscaloosa City Schools, Tuscaloosa County Schools, and the Chamber, the Adopt-A-School program had its beginning in the fall of 1985, with four charter partnerships: Phifer Wire Products with Westlawn Middle; AmSouth Bank with Woodland Forrest Elementary; BFGoodrich Tire Manufacturing with Cottondale Elementary; and Northport Medical Center with Crestmont Elementary. Within a few weeks, two more partners were added: Alabama Power Company with Oak Hill School, and Shelton State Community College with Vestavia Elementary.

 

1991

Chamber Sponsors a 2-day, County-wide Education Summit at Bryant Conference Center

Nearly 600 people attended and agreed on 27 specific recommendations that soon were adopted for implementation by the City and County school systems. Two years later, the Chamber held 24 statewide town meetings to rally the pubic for education reform. Adopt-A-School spread county-wide, with every city and county school adopted by a local club, group, or business.

1993
Chamber Honors Charlie Land

Chamber Honors Charlie Land

So significant was Charlie Land’s leadership over the span of 40 years in the community, the Chamber named its highest award after him – the Charles H. Land Member of the Year Award.

1997
First African American Chair

First African American Chair

Cordell Wynn became the Chamber’s first African American Chairman of its Board of Directors in 1997.

1998
Chamber Helps with Bryant-Denny Stadium Expansion

Chamber Helps with Bryant-Denny Stadium Expansion

The Chamber partnered with the City of Tuscaloosa, the City of Northport, and Tuscaloosa County to raise funds for Bryant-Denny Stadium's expansion. A total of $4.6 million was raised through this partnership. With the University of Alabama paying the rest of the cost, the east upper deck opened for the 1998 season with 10,000 additional seats and 81 skyboxes.

2000
Chamber Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Chamber Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The Chamber celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a centennial edition of Chamber Perspectives.

 

2001
First class of Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame Inducted

First class of Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame Inducted

Established in 2000 for the Chamber’s 100th Anniversary, the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame inducted its inaugural class in 2001. Those inductees included: Frank G. Blair; James Buford Boone, Sr.; Gwendolyn Margaret Dyer Faucett; Paul William "Bear" Bryant; C. Snow Hinton, Jr.; McDonald Hughes; George Alexander LeMaistre; Frank McCorkie Moody; James Reese Phifer, Sr.; Harry Houghton Pritchett; Morris "Munny" Seymour Sokol; Charles A. Stillman; Robert C. Tanner; Julia Strudwick Tutwiler; and Maude L. Whatley.

 

2002
One Stop Resource Center

One Stop Resource Center

The Chamber, in a quest to bring local businesses and governments within a mouse click's reach, developed a way to use technology to allow local businesses to take paperwork and people out of their everyday routines. The Chamber's "One Stop” resource center, developed in 2002, offered one location for businesses to access forms associated with operating businesses. Local business owners could obtain forms for permits, licenses and other needs from offices for the City of Northport, the City of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County.

The “One Stop” Center grew into a replicated model throughout Alabama, providing a unique
and efficient service for business services. In addition, the Economic Development Administration of the U. S. Department of Commerce awarded the Chamber a $50,000 grant during late 2003 for the further development of the “One Stop” center.

2005

Chamber helps pass legislation in Congress to make way for riverwalk expansion

The Chamber, along with the City of Tuscaloosa, successfully facilitated and helped pass amended authorization language in Congress to create a more flexible framework for relocation of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers’ facilities in Tuscaloosa along the Black Warrior River, to secure the space needed to expand the riverwalk.

2007
<strong>E-cycling Day </strong>

E-cycling Day 

The Chamber, along with the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport, went “green” in 2007 with the implementation of two E-Cycle events. These events resulted in approximately 1,650 participants and 90 volunteers recycling over 350,000 pounds of technology waste.

2008
The Literacy Council of West Alabama

The Literacy Council of West Alabama

In 2008, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama created the Literacy Council of West Alabama to fight the serious problem of functional illiteracy in West Alabama. People who are functionally illiterate are people who can read some but not well enough to function in everyday life. The council has operated independently since 2010.

2009
TideFi Wireless Network

TideFi Wireless Network

The Chamber, in partnership with the University of Alabama, City of Tuscaloosa, AT&T and local businesses, created the TideFi Wireless network in The Strip area of University Blvd in 2009. The network allowed free internet access for two hours per day to patrons of the businesses in the area. This two-year pilot project was conducted to access the economic impact of a wireless network within a business district. The network also gave students at the University another venue to conduct project meetings and discussions outside the campus setting.  

2011
Civic Hall of Fame Recognition Wall Unveiled at Government Plaza

Civic Hall of Fame Recognition Wall Unveiled at Government Plaza

In 2011, the Chamber unveiled a recognition wall at Government Plaza to permanently honor the civic giants who have been inducted as members of the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame.

April 2011

Tuscaloosa Disaster Relief Fund 

Two days after the April 27 tornado struck Tuscaloosa, the Tuscaloosa Disaster Relief Fund was established by the City of Tuscaloosa and the Chamber’s Foundation, a 50l(c)3 organization. The fund was created as a means for individuals and businesses to make tax-deductible contributions for basic human services and recovery efforts in the Tuscaloosa community in the aftermath of the deadly tornado. 

The fund received more than $2.328 million in direct contributions and allocated more than $2.321 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations that coordinated disaster relief efforts. Almost all the funds received were directed to those in need, with a very small percentage allocated for auditing purposes.  

2012
Jim Page Appointed as New President & CEO

Jim Page Appointed as New President & CEO

Page came from the Decatur-Morgan Chamber, where he served as Vice President for Public Policy and Business Development. After joining the West Alabama Chamber in 2012, he led the Chamber for over 10 years.

2012
Diverse Business Council Established

Diverse Business Council Established

What was started as the Minority Business Council in 2012 is now known as the Diverse Business Council. The DBC’s mission is to foster the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses in West Alabama.

 

2015
First WOW

First WOW

Held annually, Worlds of Work (WOW) is a fun, educational, hands-on opportunity for students to become familiar with a broad overview of high-demand, high-wage career opportunities available in the area.

 

August 2016
Chamber Receives State Accreditation

Chamber Receives State Accreditation

In 2016, the Chamber was part of the inaugural class of the Alabama Accredited Chamber of Commerce distinction awarded by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

November 2016
West AlabamaWorks Established

West AlabamaWorks Established

West AlabamaWorks, a division of the Chamber, is one of seven regions created via AlabamaWorks, which was codified in 2016 by the legislature and formally launched in November 2016. WAW serves nine counties in West Alabama: Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter, and Tuscaloosa.

 

July 2017
Inaugural Benchmarking Trip

Inaugural Benchmarking Trip

More than 70 Chamber members and community leaders traveled to Greenville, South Carolina in July 2017 for the Chamber’s inaugural benchmarking trip.

 

August 2017

WAW & WIOA Unite

West AlabamaWorks was the first regional council to combine the industry-led workforce council with the federally-funded Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) board. They formed one united WIOA board.

October 2017
Chamber Perks Program Launches

Chamber Perks Program Launches

This program, available to Chamber members at no additional cost, is designed to save members significant money on current business expenses.

 

December 2017
Educator Workforce Academy Launches

Educator Workforce Academy Launches

Throughout the Educator Workforce Academy (EWA), educators learn about Region 3 workforce development needs, with the outcome of training administrators on how to lead students through the maze of college and career opportunities. The first EWA class graduated in 2018.

 

March 2018
Young Tuscaloosa Launches

Young Tuscaloosa Launches

Young Tuscaloosa, an organization that helps young professionals in the community connect and network with others, launched in 2018.

 

May 2018
Chamber Hosts First Celebrate Local

Chamber Hosts First Celebrate Local

There were nearly four dozen local boutiques, retailers, and vendors at the first Celebrate Local event in May 2018.

 

2019
Black Belt Workforce Center Opens

Black Belt Workforce Center Opens

West AlabamaWorks cut the ribbon on the Black Belt Workforce Center in 2019. The resource center is a career development hub for businesses looking to train employees for jobs in West and Southwest Alabama. West AlabamaWorks partnered with Central and SAWDC AlabamaWorks to make the project happen.

 

2019
<strong>The EDGE</strong> Incubator and Accelerator Cuts the Ribbon of Brand-New Facility

The EDGE Incubator and Accelerator Cuts the Ribbon of Brand-New Facility

A collaboration between UA (via the Culverhouse College of Business’ Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute), the City of Tuscaloosa, and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, The EDGE is both a workspace and a catalyst for business networking that will host regular workshops, forums and informal gatherings. Opened in 2019, the $11.7 million facility includes 20 offices, 100 workstations and several conference rooms, all offered to entrepreneurs, people seeking to build their businesses and individuals who need working and networking space.

 

July 2020
Small Business Relief Fund

Small Business Relief Fund

The Small Business Relief Fund disbursed over $1,167,471 million to local small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The partnership between the Chamber, the City of Tuscaloosa, and the Community Foundation of West Alabama assisted more than 267 local small businesses throughout the nine-county region.

 

May 2021
West Alabama Workforce & Community Development Center

West Alabama Workforce & Community Development Center

The Chamber celebrated its move to the West Alabama Workforce and Community Development center in May 2021. The one-of-a-kind facility houses the Chamber and West AlabamaWorks, and is also home to numerous tenant businesses. 

 

July 2021
Chamber of the Year

Chamber of the Year

The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives named the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama the recipient of its 2021 Chamber of the Year award. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, ACCE has more than 1,600 chambers of commerce and related business and economic development organizations from across North America and Europe as members, representing more than 9,000 industry professionals.

 

May 2022
I.G.N.I.T.E. Student Jobs Program Launches

I.G.N.I.T.E. Student Jobs Program Launches

I.G.N.I.T.E. offers teens ages 14 to 18 a leg up in finding a job. Summer jobs, year-round jobs, co-op opportunities and apprenticeships are all available through this program.

 

March 2023
Building Hope AL Established

Building Hope AL Established

Building Hope AL officially launched in 2023. This collaboration with the Tuscaloosa County Commission and the ‘Just Trust’ is to provide hope, help, and opportunity to justice-involved individuals looking for employment. This online portal is a one-stop shop to careers and getting individuals connected to services that help them maintain employment.

 

July 2023
Kyle South Named President and CEO

Kyle South Named President and CEO

State Representative Kyle South stepped down from his House seat at the end of the 2023 session to become the next president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

 

March 2024
West AlabamaWorks Gets National Recognition and $200,000 grant

West AlabamaWorks Gets National Recognition and $200,000 grant

Profiles in Collective Leadership: Carnegie Corporation of New York selected West AlabamaWorks as one of 10 winners of its new initiative to support local partnerships enhancing youth education and workforce development. Each recipient received a $200,000 grant to foster nonpartisan collaborations across communities, integrating government, education, nonprofits, business, and healthcare sectors. 

This recognition underscored West AlabamaWorks' commitment to bridging education and workforce needs, exemplifying collaborative leadership on a national scale.