New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, Est. 1911
Over one hundred years ago, New Jersey's leading businessmen – including Thomas Edison – petitioned for the establishment of a state chamber of commerce. They recognized the value and the importance of an organization dedicated to making widely known the "commercial, manufacturing, and residential advantages open to those who would locate their business in New Jersey."
In the hundred years that have passed, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has grown into a Garden State institution with more than 1,200 member companies and associations representing 500,000 employees and billions of dollars in annual revenue.
Since the Chamber's founding, New Jersey's economy has evolved and transitioned many times over, to the point where the founders would have a difficult time recognizing their state today.
How many of them could have conceived of the ubiquity of television or personal computers, the impact of the Internet or cellular technology – or perhaps most revolutionary of all – women in business.
What has not changed is the purpose of the charter and the chamber. In fact, our centennial charter mirrors closely the purpose of the original charter in scope and importance – and that is to advocate for programs and initiatives that help grow the economy and create jobs in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce kicked off a year-long centennial celebration on December 7, 2010. Members signed a new business charter reaffirming its mission to promote businesses across the state.
The event, held at the offices of law firm K&L Gates in Newark, featured Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, in her role as secretary of state, ratifying the document.
"I need all of you to do what you are doing today - getting together, talking, networking and supporting a great institution like the New Jersey Chamber," Guadagno said. "The only way we can fix the problems we have in New Jersey is by putting people back to work … and we need your help."
In 1911, the Chamber's founders petitioned for the establishment of a state chamber of commerce. Gov. Woodrow Wilson was pushing policies seen as antagonistic towards business. The Supreme Court had surprised the business community by ordering a breakup of Standard Oil of New Jersey. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was pushing policies similar to Wilson's. The time was ripe for New Jersey businessmen and industrialists to act.
Walk to Washington and Congressional Dinner Background
The Walk to Washington tradition began in 1936 when several of the state's top business executives took a train to Washington to have dinner with New Jersey's congressional delegation – and the rest is history.
Today, it is regarded as one of New Jersey's most influential business and political events with a long and rich history of bringing together the state's premier political and business leaders to discuss how they can work together to generate economic growth and create jobs for New Jersey.
"Like a power lunch writ large, the 74th annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Congressional Dinner featured politicos and wannabe politicos, business leaders and university presidents, both New Jersey senators, and most New Jersey representatives," wrote Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Matt Katz following the 2011 Walk to Washington.
More than 700 business leaders joined Governor Chris Christie, Senators Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, members of the state's Congressional delegation and members of the state Legislature on the Walk to Washington.
"I'm glad to be here and I'm glad all of you are here to support the Chamber," Gov. Christie told the audience of 700. "The work that we all have to do together for the people of the state is extraordinarily important."
The Walk to Washington obtained its name when folks realized that few sit on the train; they literally walk up and down the train the whole way to Washington.
The guests board a chartered Amtrak train that leaves from Penn Station in Newark and then stops at various stations across New Jersey, as well as stops in Philadelphia and Wilmington. After the train arrives in the nation's capital, guests have been joined by governors, state legislators, New Jersey's Congressional delegation and other prominent business and political leaders from the Garden State for the annual Congressional Dinner.
The State Chamber's headquarters is located across the street from the State House, which enables our staff to mobilize and react quickly to the rapid events that often unfold in the state's capital. Our team of lobbyists interact daily with key legislative players in Trenton and our reach extends to Washington, where we represent our members in the halls of Congress and at the White House.
In addition to lobbying, the Chamber provides members with networking events, educational programs and money-saving discounts.
Although the state has transformed from an industrial society to a technological one, the State Chamber's goal has always remained the same – to represent the varying interests of our members and to help them clear burdensome regulatory hurdles that stifle growth. Our membership has always been broad-based, ranging from solo proprietors to Fortune 500 companies. Throughout the chamber's rich history, the organization's talented leaders have always provided the guidance necessary to develop proactive solutions to the important and tough issues of the day.