The History and Development of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce

Over 180 Years in the local business community.

The Guelph Chamber of Commerce, in one form or another, has been part of the history of Guelph since it was founded in 1827. The growing community soon realized that an organization was needed to stimulate and encourage economic growth and to represent all Guelph business interests. Within four months of the founding of Guelph, the Board of Commerce was established. In 1866, it was renamed the Board of Trade, and the present Guelph Chamber of Commerce was named in 1919.

Over the years, the name of the organization has been modified, but the founding objectives continue to support the vision established by the founding members so many years ago - the betterment of Guelph through economic expansion.

The original Board of Commerce aimed to introduce the village people to each other and to find ways to encourage businesses to set up in the newly-founded village of Guelph. The founding Chamber recognized clearly that the development of a prosperous village was dependent upon the development of business.

The Board of Trade developed a close relationship with the City Council and many decisions were made together, including acquiring the Guelph Junction Railway (1886). From 1903 to 1906 the Board of Trade represented the business community in the forefront of the debate for what would later become the Power Commission of Ontario. Guelph believed that municipal ownership was the key to rapid economic growth, and the City soon became the owner of public utilities, railway, gas plant, electrical light plant and the water works.

Today, the Guelph Chamber of Commerce is proud to celebrate over 180 years of partnership with the City and its business community.


The village of Guelph is founded and the Board of Commerce is established.


The Board of Trade is established. The Guelph Board of Trade is incorporated by a Special Act of Provincial Parliament.


Board of Trade becomes known as the Chamber of Commerce. The Guelph Chamber of Commerce sets an objective of 400 new members. The roster for 1920 shows 390 members.

1940 - 1949

The Guelph Chamber of Commerce becomes a founding member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The Guelph Chamber of Commerce helped distribute food stamps as part of the war effort


The Guelph Chamber of Commerce becomes a founding member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.


The Guelph industrial commissioner and a chamber member, Robert MacPherson, receives an "Award of Excellence" for the brochure, All About Canada.

The Guelph Chamber of Commerce wins a "superior award" for Guide to Guelph.

1988 - 1990

The Guelph Chamber's School Workplace Apprenticeship Program (SWAP) provides first-hand employment information and experience for young people in the community.

The Guelph Chamber hosts a fund-raising drive through the co-operative payroll deduction program for the redevelopment of local hospitals. A committee, including the Chamber, is set up to help raise $7.7 million for St. Joseph's Hospital and $5 million for the Guelph General Hospital.

1991 - 2000

The Guelph Chamber initiates a members only buying group for the purchase of natural gas. 

The Guelph Chamber’s new communications material and logo is introduced, an up-to-date business directory is published, and new education programs are launched. The Chamber, in partnership with The City of Guelph, initiated and developed the Guelph Quality Awards Program.   A membership kit that summarizes the benefits of being a Chamber member is introduced.

The Guelph Chamber was a founding partner of the Guelph Wellington Business Enterprise Centre in 1999, dedicated to helping entrepreneurs with business information and support services for start-ups and existing businesses.

The beginning of the new Millennium was the beginning of new partnerships for the Chamber. The Chamber and the City of Guelph combine forces to produce a joint comprehensive business directory, the 1999-2000 Guelph Business & Membership Directory. It was also the inaugural year of the Guelph Awards of Excellence. The Guelph Awards of Excellence honoured the winners of the most comprehensive business awards program in Guelph. The gala event included a four course dinner, keynote speaker Bobbie Gaunt, President and C.E.O. of the Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd., and the awards program, including award presentations from Excellence partners: Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Corporation of The City of Guelph, Visitor and Convention Services, The Downtown Board of Management, and the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre.

2000 - 2001

In 2001, the Guelph Chamber took a leadership role by establishing two very important programs, designed to provide on-going solutions for local issues of concern to business and community. Concerned about Guelph’s growing shortage of family physicians, the Guelph Chamber offered an interest free loan of $50,000 for the local Physician Recruitment & Retention Committee to attract new doctors to the city. Equally concerned about Guelph’s shortage of skilled labour, the Guelph Chamber established the “Millennium Scholarship Fund”, which offers a $500 bursary to a Guelph high school graduate entering a trade or technical program at Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology.

The Guelph Awards of Excellence, administered by the Guelph Chamber, welcomed Mayor Karen Farbridge as an awards partner, by including the Mayor’s Awards as part of the program of the second annual Awards of Excellence Gala. Also, the first annual Chamber After 5 – regional tradeshow was held at Bingeman’s in partnership with the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chambers of Commerce.

2003 - 2004

In 2003, the Guelph Chamber implemented a series of half day training seminars as a result of the responses to the Usage & Attitudes Survey carried out earlier with members. These training seminars offered members timely and useful topics of interest without going out of the City. In partnership with the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre, the first annual Tabletop Tradeshow was held in the Atrium in the OMAFRA building.

In partnership with the Centre Wellington Chamber, a Joint Membership Fee was introduced, allowing members of one Chamber to join the other at significantly reduced fees. In addition, new start-up businesses that utilized the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre program were offered a free six month membership in the Chamber.


The Guelph Chamber helped establish Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington through increased funding from Citzenship and Immigration Canada, dedicated to helping people new to Canada through settlement services and language assessment and training.


The Guelph Chamber was involved in the opening of Innovation Guelph.  One of 14 regional innovation centres in Ontario focusing on job creation and investment in the technology economy.


The Guelph Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the University of Guelph, City of Guelph and Grow Guelph, produce a joint business directory of the city launching the “Connect Guelph Business Directory"

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