The Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce began in the 1960s by a number of local businessmen. These men assembled to discuss business issues of the day and were known as the Clarenville Business Association. Others were encouraged to join the association so that it could extend its influence to the surrounding area. Due to this encouragement, others joined and the Clarenville Business Association was renamed as the Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce, with Eric Martin as its first president. The Chamber was registered by the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs in Ottawa on May 30, 1968, thereby giving it official status.
The improvement of Clarenville’s medical services was of the foremost interest to the Chamber. In the late 1960s, Clarenville did not have a medical clinic or a permanent physician. The Chamber resolved to establish a clinic in order to attract one of its visiting physicians, Dr. Albert O’Mahony. With the help of public donations totaling $12,000 and a local bank loan, a medical clinic was constructed. Dr. O’Mahony rented this clinic and became Clarenville’s first permanent doctor. In 1972, Dr. O’Mahony bought the clinic from the Chamber for $27,000, which was invested to be used for future medical facilities. The investment grew to $96,000 by 1989. At this time, a modern hospital had already been put in place. A decision was made by the Chamber to donate the entire investment to the new hospital to develop a room in the hospital and to purchase a CO2 surgical laser.
During the 1970s, the Chamber was involved in many projects to help stimulate the growth of Clarenville. One of these projects was the development of an Industrial Park to attract new businesses. After considerable lobbying of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, an Industrial Park was constructed at the west end of town, off Manitoba Drive. Another successful venture of the Chamber is the construction of an airstrip. Much research was done by Mr. Harry O’Gay to find a suitable site. His search took him to several sites in the area. Eventually, a location along the Cabot Highway, which is approximately nine miles from Clarenville, was selected. The Chamber then obtained a 50-year lease of the site from Crown Lands. However, it was not until 1983 that the Chamber received a grant from the Department of Social Services to clear-cut enough area for the strip. After extensive discussion by Mr. O’Gay with both federal and provincial officials about funding, an agreement was made whereby the federal government would provide commencement funding through grants and the province would provide maintenance for the airstrip thereafter. This allowed the Chamber to construct a paved runway (75 ft. x 3000 ft.) and install a remote controlled lighting system at the site. The airstrip was completed during the summer of 1989.
A major focus of the Chamber in the 1980s was the development of a federal program known as Community Ventures. Ernest Warren was the driving force and the chairman of the committee for the Clarenville area. It was through his efforts that the Bonavista Peninsula & Surrounding Area Community Futures Committee (BPSACFC) became a reality in 1990. The committee was established in response to the area’s chronic unemployment situation. The BPSACFC is comprised of approximately eighty-eight communities and representatives from eleven organizations, including the Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce. There were also many other ventures by the Chamber in the 1980s which proved to be worthwhile. One such undertaking was the lobbying of Petro Canada and the provincial government by the Chamber to save the Come-By-Chance refinery from closure. The facility did not close and remains to be one of the biggest employers in the area. In the late 1980s, the Chamber and the town of Clarenville made a considerable effort to promote the town. The Chamber involved an advertising firm to design a promotional package that focused on what Clarenville had to offer in life style as an attraction to lure industry to locate here. Funding for this initiative was provided by the Chamber, the town and the provincial government.
In the early 1990s, the Chamber expanded its executive. This expansion proved to be of great benefit to the Chamber and its ventures. The new members to the executive provided the Chamber with new ideas to complement those of existing members. The Chamber also began the process of questioning the general membership to determine their level of involvement in Chamber activities and stimulate future involvement. One of the issues confronted by the Chamber in the early 1990s was the threat of closure of the Motor Vehicle Registration office and the Regional Taxation Centre in Clarenville. The Chamber addressed this issue with much haste and vigor, which was instrumental in getting the decision reversed on the taxation centre. The Motor Vehicle Registration, however, was closed. The employment of the area’s youth was a key issue to the Chamber in the early 1990s. In 1992, the Chamber decided that it should be helping to promote youth employment. So, that same year, the Chamber was able to hire a student through government funding programs. Furthermore, the Chamber has employed many youth since. In 1993, the Chamber felt that it could do more to further develop the employment opportunities for youth in the area. Thus, the Chamber took the initiative to apply to ACOA and CEIC for funding to introduce a Youth Ventures Program to Clarenville. The funding was granted and the Youth Ventures Program has operated every summer since. Education was another pressing issue with the Chamber. It served as an advisory board for an entrepreneurial course at Clarenville High School and supported the school’s attempts to initiate a cooperative education program. The Chamber continued in its efforts to have first year university courses offered in Clarenville. After years of lobbying, the first year courses were introduced at the Eastern College – Clarenville Campus in the fall of 1994. In the early 1990s, environmental responsibility was a concern with the Chamber. Thus, it established a mandate to take a leadership role in stimulating environmental responsibility. The Chamber has also taken a role in the integration of people with disabilities into the regular workforce.