Building a better community through education, benevolence, culture, better business, and more diversified industry has always been the aim of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

Although the Chamber was formed in 1911, no minutes are available until 1930. In August of 1935, “rejuvenation” of the Chamber was conducted at the Terrace Hotel with 125 people attending. Through these early years, many committees were formed to help our people. Some of these committees have become large separate entities serving the community today, such as the United Way, the Troup County Livestock Association, and the Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce.

One of the most important tasks the Chamber had to undertake in the 1930’s was to help the county survive the depression. At this time, the Chamber was headed by Mr. P.E. “Pete” Redding. A resolution stated, ” P.E. Redding has been actively identified with every civic movement of this city and for many of those years, especially the past depression years, he has virtually been the Chamber of Commerce. Very few people realize the incessant work that Mr. Redding has done for the community. He has been the ‘whip’ that formed committees and pushed actively for every road project and civic activity that has been undertaken in these years of quiet activity. The community owes P.E. Redding a real debt of gratitude.” The upstairs conference room of our former Chamber building was named the P.E. Redding Conference Room in honor of this man.

As early as 1933, there was a Women’s Division of the Chamber and Mrs. Margaret Edmondson was the chairperson. Today, the group numbers over 100 members.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, Chamber attention was devoted to trying to make life better for the farmers who did not have money to buy seed and fertilizer. Work was done to preserve a Conservation Camp at West Point to give people jobs. Committees were formed to try to bring new business in to the community. A group worked to have a highway opened between Roanoke, LaGrange, Mountville, and Greenville. A group was formed to raise funds for Camp Viola, a summer camp for children. Other committees addressed other problems.

A corporate charter was granted to incorporate the Chamber in 1947 to “complete an organization of a charitable, educational, and scientific non-profit corporation to carry on acts of this nature in this area.”

So much of the population in our country was involved in agriculture, it was directed in the activities and needs of the local farmers. The Troup Farmers Foundation was very active in the 1940’s and the minutes show that the money in the agriculture account of the Chamber was transferred to the Troup County Livestock Association in October of 1947. The Chamber office was in the Rural Urban Building on West Depot Street, and the board meetings were conducted at the Colonial Hotel across from the Courthouse, in the 1940’s and until the 1960’s.

In 1947, the Chamber Board met and voted to donate their International pick-up truck to the Troup County Livestock Association and also authorized the Finance and Membership Committee to hire a full-time manager as soon as funds were available. This was necessary due to the increased efforts of the Chamber to obtain new industry, enhance the community, promote tourism, and the many other projects in which they were involved.

In 1948, the Chamber membership had grown to 340 members and had committees working on the Transportation, Highway and Road, Public Health and Safety, New Industries, Civic Improvements, Agriculture, National Affairs, Tourism, Railway Service, and Airport Improvement. It was in this year that the Chamber proposed a plan to consolidate all the charity campaigns for funds into one organization, and this organization became the present day United Way. In December of 1948, Harry A. Schroeder was hired as Executive Secretary of the Chamber at a salary of $400.00 a monthly plus $200.00 car expense yearly.

Due to the efforts of the Chamber, Southern Airways established air service to LaGrange from Atlanta and the Agriculture Committee coordinated the drive to establish the Troup County Forest Fire Protection Unit. The U.S. Highway 27 Committee was active in enticing more tourists to this area.

During these years a Development Committee was also working, interviewing, and visiting prospective industries for this area. The need for improved housing for the Georgia State Patrol headquarters, Post Office expansion, the need for recreational areas and parks, and a stadium for the high school were problems that the Chamber worked on in the 1950’s.

Many hours were spent in trying to secure new industry in the 1950’s, including a corrugated box industry. Numerous hours were also devoted to trying to acquire the U.S. Air Force Academy. Although these projects failed to materialize, many others brought many different industries to the Troup County area. Our existing industry was honored with a big Cotton Ball, Parade, and naming of the Cotton Ball queen. The need for an athletic field was pursued. The first of many meetings to evaluate the need to widen Vernon Road and Lee’s Crossing took place in 1951, and the widening was set, adding 12 feet to the highway.

Although the Chamber was undertaking major growth problems, other community needs were also being targeted – such as community beautification, Christmas decorations for the downtown area, and billboard signs for all the entrances into the city.

The Chamber was involved in anything that would better our community or help to express our appreciation for what we already had. Our veterans were honored in many ways, including a “Welcome Home” celebration for soldiers coming home from Korea. The mother of the U-2 pilot, Glynn Hyde, who was shot down over Cuba during the time of “Bay of Pigs,” served the Chamber of Commerce for many years as secretary. A resolution in honor of Ruby Gordy Hyde is included in the minutes, following her death from cancer.

In the early 1950’s, the Chamber was offered the use of an automobile from all of the automobile dealers. The Chamber now has a van that is used to show prospects around the county and for staff members to attend various Chamber functions.

In 1938, the Chamber had originated the Livestock Sales Market, and in 1946, when the sales barn on Bacon Street burned, the Chamber stepped in to organize the Troup Livestock Association and Troup Farmers’ Foundation.

In 1957, the first of many new industries came to LaGrange: International Playtex opened on Commerce Avenue, manufacturing ladies girdles and bras. This industry eventually closed and Douglas and Lomason moved in, only to vacate the property in 1996.

As early as 1959, the Chamber was involved with efforts to create Interstate Highway 85 – connecting LaGrange to Atlanta with an expressway. The Chattahoochee River Project, which eventually created the West Point Dam and Lake, got underway, and today brings millions of dollars in tourist dollars to this area and gives our citizens excellent recreational opportunities.

The Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 50th Anniversary in October 1961. 1962 was a landmark year for the Chamber when the Callaway Foundation agreed to remodel the Pure Oil Station at the intersection of Bull and Main Streets for new headquarters for the Chamber. Chuck Franklin was Executive Secretary of the Chamber at this time. In November of 1962, a concentrated effort began to secure land for industrial development. In the March, 1963, minutes, it was noted that land had been acquired, and a road was being cut in the Industrial Park. The need for industrial and vocational training was addressed and a Trade School was proposed. From this endeavor, what is now West Georgia Technical Institute, was formed. West Georgia Tech not only offers excellent courses in many industrial and vocational fields, but also offers adult education for the G.E.D. and Quick Start training program for future employees of new industry coming into the area.

A project undertaken by the LaGrange Life Underwriters in the mid-’60’s aided in the industrial growth of the community. They had printed and distributed 1,500 bumper stickers with the motto, “LaGrange, Ga. Wants New Industry.”

The West Point Lake project got underway with ground breaking in March, 1966. More industries located in this area including Talon, Westinghouse, and others.

Attractive welcoming signs were placed at six entrances to LaGrange. The ’70’s and ’80’s saw Highway I-85 to Atlanta and I-185 to Columbus endeavors. The problem of downtown parking and the need to expand the hospital came as a result of the growth.

In January, 1971, Dr. Waights G. Henry, President of LaGrange College, made the first suggestion that something should be done to the square to help recognize our heritage and connection to General LaFayette. Our town was named “LaGrange” in honor of General LaFayette’s service to this county during the Revolutionary War. LaGrange was the name of his estate in France. The fountain and the statue on our square are the fruits of these original efforts.

Chuck Franklin resigned in 1972 and Carlton Higginbotham was hired as Executive Secretary. Among the problems facing the community at this time were housing, transportation, lake pollution, and jobs for people.

In 1979, the secretary of the Chamber, Jane Fryer became the president of the Chamber. In 1981, the need for larger quarters for the Chamber became evident, and Frank Traylor, Sr. did an architectural rendering for the remodeling of the building. His suggestions were undertaken and the building subsequently underwent two expansions. His work with the Chamber was recognized with a new conference room named the C. Frank Traylor Conference Room in 1990 in his memory.

Today the Chamber of Commerce encompasses the entire county, and is named the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce,covering Hogansville, West Point and LaGrange. Many large new industries have located in the Industrial Park, including giants such as Mobil Chemical, Hughes Aircraft, Kimberly Clark, Caterpillar, and others. Programs designed to benefit educational projects, such as Adopt-A-School, which is now Partners In Education, are in full swing. The Chamber promotes the Communities In School Program, G.O.A.L. program at the technical school, and the international understanding with our Sister Cities program through the LaGrange International Friendship Exchange (L.I.F.E.).

Recently, a new Industrial Park has been developed between Highways I-85 and I-185. The Chamber sponsors an Early Bird Breakfast monthly and provides members with a monthly newsletter. Along with Industrial Development Authority, the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority is active.

In 1996, the Chamber Board of Directors saw a need for a better and much larger office facility for the Chamber. The Board voted unamously to acquire the building at 111 Bull Street, formerly occupied by Parker Furniture Company and later Susan Teaver Interiors. A capital fund drive was started and a goal of $600,000.00 was set. To date, we have raised over $460,000.00 of this goal and we continue to seek funding to retire the debt. The Callaway Foundation joined hands with us and built a public plaza connected to the Chamber. This plaza is used for all public events and is an asset to the Chamber facility.

It would be impossible in a short history to note all the accomplishments and endeavors of the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has moved into the ’90’s with computers, fax machines, and portable telephones to keep abreast of the needs of a growing community. We serve the tourists and the hometown people. The years have proven that the Chamber has fulfilled its corporate aims of being an economic, educational, civic, and cultural organization that benefits the entire county.