Chamber History

Chamber Grew From Merchants Association Formed In 1937

The Chamber's deep roots date to October 22, 1937, and the formation of Belmont Merchants Association, Inc., which was organized "to encourage and develop the commercial interests of the Town of Belmont and surrounding territory." Establishing a credit bureau and collection agency to serve local merchants was one of the principal purposes of the association. 

Twenty-three years later times were different. Belmont boasted more than 30 manufacturing companines, mostly textile, and the merchants envisioned a new role for the association. They needed to reach out to and involve the community's industrial business leaders. 

Merchants Association President Robert Hilker chaired a committee that worked many months on the issue in late 1959 and early 1960. Others on the committee were Harley B. Gaston, Jr., Neely Dixon, Jr. and Dalton Mann. They drafted bylaws, recruited board members and attended to the complex legal requirements to  convert the Merchants Association to the Belmont Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

J. Paul Ford, cashier of the Bank of Belmont, was elected as the first president of the Belmont Chamber of Commerce, and he called the first meeting of the Board of Directors for May 2, 1960. Other officers elected were Clyde Deitz, vice president, and James Dickson, treasurer. Mrs. Yvonnie C. Hill served as executive secretary of the Chamber.

Elected to the first Chamber Board of Directors were: L.A. Brown, W.A. Dixon, Jr., David Bumgardner, the Rev. Harry H. Robinson, Jr., Eli Cohn, Harvey Elmore, Robert Hilker, Edgar Bullard, I.E. Howe, Neely Dixon, Jr., Harley Gaston, Jr., Dalton Mann, W. Price Hand, and J. Bart Hall.   

In 70 years of service, the Chamber and its predecessor Merchants Assocation saw Belmont from the infancy of the textile industry through the boom years and then ultimately into the decline. Most of the mills are gone now, replaced by upscale homes. A new day is dawning in Belmont and in the other towns of eastern Gaston County: Cramerton, Lowell, McAdenville, Mount Holly and Stanley. The rapidly growing Charlotte market, no longer held at bay by the Catawba River, is overflowing into eastern Gaston and changing the face of its communities.

To meet the challenges of changing communities and a changing business climate, the Chamber also is changing. With membership growing rapidly from businesses located in neighboring towns, consideration of a name to reflect its changing membership and mission began in 2005.

After years of deliberation, the Chamber Board of Directors in 2008 voted to begin doing business as the Montcross Area Chamber, a name derived from the massive Montcross residential, retail and commercial project along I-85 between the Catawba and South Fork Rivers. Honoring its rich history, the Chamber continues to operate under the corporate name Belmont Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

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