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Chamber thriving, growing with the times

The West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce is celebrating 50 years.

Quite a prestigious milestone for the organization that has grown to over 420 members since its inception back in 1958.

The group's annual fundraising event, billed as the 50th anniversary gala was held last Friday night at the Ramada Plaza Suites. The growth and popular, positive effect of the organization was evidenced by the huge crowd that turned out for the evening of fun, food and entertainment.

The Chamber's history is indeed a rich one, with several prominent West Fargo businesses serving on its first board of directors, with many of the names still highly recognizable today as offspring carry on their legacy: i.e. Arnold Lorentzsen, Blain Hanson, Earl Northrop, Lee Tarvestad, Gudrun Kaiser, Herb Tintes, Gerry Redmond, Lawrence Fradet, Dale Montgomery, Keith Junge, John Leaman, Elmer Hogeboom, Richard Goldberg, and Gerry Heisler.

The group was active and ambitious, with several of their endeavors resulting in beneficial outcomes noticeable yet today. Among them - relocating the Fairgrounds from Fargo to west of West Fargo; meetings with State Highway Department officials regarding establishing a highway through town; and the formation of traffic and retail committees that helped realize the City's main thoroughfares and business district.

Other Chamber projects throughout the years also yielded long-lasting effects, including working with youth activities and the schools, planning assistance for highway and access roads, opposition to making the West Fargo post office a branch of the Fargo post office, developing promotional brochures for the City of West Fargo that went hand in hand with attracting new businesses to the West Fargo area, as well as being instrumental in creating the name change from Southwest Fargo to West Fargo.

Through the years, the Chamber also helped organize and sponsor the City's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the residential Christmas decoration contest, the Arbor Day celebration and the Yard of the Month selections.

And perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments has been the West Fest Community Days, a two-day event that includes activities for the entire family held each year in September that attracts thousands of guests.

During its tenure, the Chamber has also watched the City's population grow by leaps and bounds, increasing from 3,000 to over 8,000 during the years 1958 to 1975 and increasing to its latest figure of approximately 24,000 in 2008, all the while attracting a well-diversified workforce and several industries including, major manufacturing, aviation, engineering, large retail, senior living, financial, and, the past several years, the boom in the residential and commercial construction industry.  

The Organization had seven prior locations before moving to its present base of operation in the Lodoen Community Center at 109 3rd St. E. In 2007, the Chamber adopted a name change to the West Fargo 'Area' Chamber of Commerce, along with a new mission and vision statement and logo to reflect their new growth and the ever-increasing membership from surrounding communities.

Indeed, the proactive stance of the Chamber the last five decades has resulted in enduring benefits. The very composition of the City of West Fargo today bears the direct and lasting imprint of the Chamber, with their activities over the past 50 years reflected in nearly every major improvement in the community.

Executive Director Chris Barton and her staff are looking forward with enthusiasm to what the future holds in store for the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce, and on that note, are proud to be celebrating 50 years serving its members.

Barton and her staff should be commended for their excellent ongoing effort in their promotion of the community, truly continuing to play a role in helping make West Fargo - 'the City on the Grow.'

Everyone is invited to stop by the Chamber and check out all the organization has to offer or to visit their Web site at to view a complete business directory of members and a calendar of upcoming community and business-related events.