Chamber Clippings

With more than 150 years of history, the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce has impacted our community through its plan of work. The Chamber provides direction and policy on economic development, legislation, budget & fiscal policy, education, employment, energy, environment, local government, health care and transportation in our region. Here is a view of our work over time.

1971 Chamber Retail Committee Event

The following appeared in the 70th anniversary publication for Western Technical College:

March 25, 1971: The La Crosse Chapter of Distributive Education Clubs of America presented a “Sign Into Spring” fashion show in cooperation with the Retail Division of the Greater La Crosse Chamber of Commerce. Local merchants unveiled spring lines of wearing apparel.

1967 Chamber Gives Kids Free Xmas Movies

The following appeared in the 70th anniversary report for Western Technical College:

November 29, 1967: The Greater La Crosse chamber of Commerce sponsored “free” Christmas movies for grade school children in the La Crosse area. Show times were 9 and 11 a.m. and 3 and 5 p.m. The films consisted of Christmas cartoons. And, Santa Claus appeared at each show.

1966 Chamber Provides Western Aid

The following appeared in Western Technical College’s 70th anniversary publication.

In spring of 1966, the Education Committee of the Greater La Crosse Chamber of Commerce established a loan fund for students attending the Coleman Vocational School. Director Richardson noted that from time to time short-term or emergency assistance was needed by the students. The Chamber sent letters to its members appealing for assistance and $330 was obtained.

1960 Arrival of Don Petruccelli: First Chamber Executive Director

The following appeared in the Sioux City Journal in 2005.

Don J. Petruccelli, Sioux City Chamber of Commerce staff member from 1958 until 1960, was honored last week by the Lee County (Fla.) Board of County Commissioners for being the longest serving Chamber of Commerce executive in the country.

Petruccelli who has been president of the Fort Myers Beach (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce since 1985 celebrated 50 years of continuous service with chambers of commerce last Tuesday. A native of Davenport, Iowa, he started his career Feb. 1, 1955, as executive secretary of the Bettendorf (Iowa) Chamber. He accepted the position of executive secretary of the Rice Lake (Wis.) Chamber July 1, 1957. In November 1958, he accepted the position of manager of the Sioux City Chamber’s public relations, legislative and membership councils.

During his tenure in Sioux City, Chamber membership increased from 500 to 1,800. The Chamber also issued two annual reports that were published as supplements to the Sioux City Sunday Journal and participated in the national All-America City competition in which the city received an honorable mention.

In November 1960, Petruccelli moved to La Crosse, Wis. where he served until 1973 when he became executive vice president of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce. He served the Gadsden (Ala.) Chamber from 1982 until 1985 when he assumed the top Chamber post in Fort Myers Beach.

1960 Chamber Begins Oktoberfest

The following appeared on WIZM in 2010 upon the death of the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce’s first executive director, D.J. Petruccelli:

He was the main decision-maker for the first few years of Oktoberfest

Former La Crosse Chamber of Commerce boss D-J Petruccelli was 81 when he died in Florida last week. Petruccelli had just begun working at the La Crosse Chamber in 1960 when brewery workers came to him with the idea for a fall festival. Duane Moore worked in local radio and TV at the time, and he remembers Don Petruccelli getting really big names to appear at Oktoberfest, including Louis Armstrong and Guy Lombardo.  Petruccelli also brought speakers such as Ann Landers and Ronald Reagan to the Chamber’s annual dinner. Moore remembers the Chamber boss as a guy who liked ‘extravaganzas.’

1951 Junior Chamber

The following appeared in Western Technical College’s 70th anniversary publication.

Better meetings through better program planning and leadership were among the aims of a leadership-training institute for La Crosse area residents by the Junior Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the La Crosse Vocational and Adult Schools and assisted by the University of Wisconsin Extension Division. The purpose of the institute was to acquaint leaders of business and industrial groups with the techniques and materials of program planning, effective group leadership discussion techniques, and other pertinent meeting aspects.

1951 Recognizing Western’s Retail Program

The following appeared in Western Technical College’s 70th Anniversary Publication:

May 23, 1951, the La Crosse Vocational and Adult Schools showed appreciation to local merchants cooperating in the school’s retail training program. A combination appreciation banquet and graduation exercise for the first class to complete the course was held in the Vocational Cafeteria. Toastmaster of the program was Everett Woehrmann, secretary of the La Crosse County Chamber or Commerce. The Distributive Education Retail cooperative program was started in September 1950 and it was the only such program in operation on a post-high school level in Wisconsin. Director Coleman stated, “recognizing that approximately 80 percent of our high school graduates do not go on to college . . . it is essential that the Vocational School offer a program that will provide high school graduates with an opportunity to learn while they earn.”

1944 Helping Veterans After WWII

The following appeared in Western Technical College’s 70th Anniversary Publication:

The war wasn’t over, but planning for a post-war era was begun in 1944 . . . At the annual meeting in February 1944 of the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce, guest speaker of the evening Frank O. Holt, director of public relations at the University of Wisconsin, spoke on “Postwar Planning and Business Statesmanship”. Director Coleman presented certificates of honor signed by President Roosevelt and General Hershey to nonpaid members of the county price and rationing board. The Chamber members continued their discussion in March 1944 regarding the rehabilitation of returning soldiers both now and immediately after the war, as well as general community plans.

1940 Chamber-Western Bring Dale Carnegie to La Crosse

The following appears in Western Technical College’s 70th anniversary publication.

April 17, 1940

Dale Carnegie of New York City, founder of the Carnegie Institute gave two lectures, sponsored jointly by the Vocational School and the Chamber of Commerce.

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