|The Algona Chamber of Commerce began its first year of operation August 1, 1936. During the earlier days of Algona there was some type of a businessmen's association which worked on a volunteer basis for the betterment and advancement of the community. It was originally a "Commercial Club," and then later it took on the title of "Algona Community Club" in 1925.
One of the first paid executives was H. M. Van Auken who started here in the 1916 and served a year and a half. From here he took a similar job in Mason City and later wound up in Topeka, Kansas. He wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post in 1946 titled "Peddlers of Progress" in which he told of the progressive Algona business people.
The period after that is vague. We do know that along about 1921 W.E. McDonald was the Executive. He was followed by Roy Cowan in 1922 and 1923. D. E. Dewel served as secretary for several years after 1925.
In 1936 it was decided that Algona should have a full time paid executive. The board hired Oliver D. Reiley, who had some Chamber of Commerce experience in Red Oak, Iowa. It was then that new Articles of Incorporation were filed. The President of the Chamber of Commerce was Milton Norton, a local lumber and coal dealer. Oliver Reiley reorganized the Chamber of commerce.
Oliver Reiley left on June 15, 1938 to take a better paying Chamber job in Marshalltown. At this time the Board of Directors hired Leslie T. Saul. He stayed until August 5 1940. He was a former Major in the Army and was quite an authority on military matters. He left to teach in a military school.
The next Chamber Executive was Clarence Philips on October 1, 1940. Clarence was here during the time of the war and served on the rationing board. He tried to help out in any way he could. He left in July of 1945 to take a Chamber job in Ottumwa.
Leighton Misbach, former Mayor of Algona, took the Chamber Executive position in 1946 and stayed through 1948. This was along about the time that Perry Collins, Ray Beamish and Joe Bradley, Sr. were Presidents. Then Lyle Rodd was hired on February 7, 1949. He wished to change jobs and start work for Joe Bradley, Sr. in a seed business.
On March 17, 1950 Wm. F. Steele was hired on a part time basis by the Board. Steele had formerly been in the men's clothing business in Algona. He had served as a Chamber of Commerce Director for several years and had been President in 1939. He was familiar with the program of work and had a general understanding of the job requirements. His first assignment was to go to Fairmont, Minnesota and copy their plan of Bureau operation for the Algona Chamber. This was a departure from the Committee Plan to change to 12 groups or Bureaus of Chamber members. This has been since reduced to six workably. Bureaus. After a few months it was apparent that this couldn't be handled on a part time basis, and it became full time. Steele attended U .S. Chamber of Commerce institutes and graduated after the customary three-year period in 1958 he was elected President of Iowa Chamber of Commerce Executives. In 1961 he was awarded a Certificate of Merit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Michigan State University for "Advanced Management Studies" at Chamber of Commerce Institute. He has served as President of a regional group called Northwest Iowa Chamber Executives.
According to records of the past, one of the first Chamber of Commerce Offices was on the north side of the former Algona Hotel, on the ground floor. Office space was off the lobby and was shared by an Algona Credit Bureau. Later it was shared by the Kossuth Farm Bureau, which the Chamber helped organize. In 1938 the office was moved to a new location above the Iowa State Bank. During this period the office Secretary was shared by two other offices and sometimes she was utterly confused with three bosses. In 1954 the Chamber took on the Western Union agency. The Board felt that the Chamber should do this rather than lose the service from Algona. Western Union had been in an office of it's own in the Algona Hotel. Western Union was retained at the Chamber Office as an accommodation to the people of our community, not as a moneymaker.
In the spring of 1958 the Iowa State Bank decided that they would remove the second story offices and become a one-story bank building. This meant that the Chamber must move. It was decided to locate in the Heise Building, next door to the Credit Bureau of Kossuth County, on the second floor. The Chamber Office remained there six and one half years. The quarters were nice but too small. The Board of Directors decided that we should move on September 1, 1964 to 114 N. Moore Street. The building was owned by Harold Cowan, and he designed the arrangement of the new offices. Furniture, fixtures and drapes were selected by Bob Watson, a qualified interior decorator. This ground floor location proved to be very practical.
The 260 business firms that are members of the Algona Chamber of Commerce are divided into six different groups of Bureaus. They are as follows: Retail Bureau: Civic Bureau; Agriculture and Petroleum bureau; Manufacturers and Distributors Bureau; Automotive Bureau; and Salesmen's Bureau. Each Bureau elects its own officers who serve on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Officers of the Chamber are elected by the Board of Directors. Many projects are carried out by the individual Bureau, and other projects are activities of the entire Chamber membership.
The "Industrial Development Committee" of the Chamber did all the work of searching out and promoting new industries for Algona, as well as encouraging present industries to expand and prosper. It was thought advisable to form a separate corporation so that stock could be issued, money could be raised and industrial sites purchased. The Algona Industrial Development Corporation was started May 14, 1956. The two corporations have worked closely together using the same Secretary and using Chamber of Commerce offices and facilities. Each Corporation has its own Officers and Board members.