According to a document published in 1801 by Mr. Joseph Eve the original Chamber was founded in 1797 and established in 1799 described as follows:
“The objects of the institution are to unite the strength of the mercantile interest for any purposes that are thought to promise advantages to the commerce of the colony, to give members an opportunity to gain information by occasional discussions on mercantile subjects, and to procure relief from litigation by means of a perpetual court of arbitration.”
It would appear that the first Chamber was short-lived but according to an Almanac of The Bahamas dated 1911, under the heading “Institution and Societies”, an article states that the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce began in 1907 with the object of fostering local trade and industry. Reportedly, at the instigation of the then Attorney General, Sir John Broomhead Matthews (later to become Chief Justice), the Chamber was reformed “for the promotion of the general interests of the colony, for collecting and classifying mercantile information, for establishing as Court of Arbitration to adjust commercial difference which may be referred to it, and for communication with the public authorities on all subjects affecting the common good.” Sir James Young, was its first President, and the Hon. George H. Gamblin was the Corresponding Secretary.
The Chamber is said to have continued until 1935 when the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, as it exists today was founded by businessman Alvin Braynen with the late Sir Roland Symonette as its first President. Sir Alven Braynen became an honorary member of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce. Until 1966, before moving to its current headquarters on the corner of Collins Avenue and Shirley Street, the Chamber was located in the Savoy Theatre Building on Bay Street.
In 1980, the Chamber was restructured into Divisions to become more effective as an organization representing the country’s private sector. The seven Trade Divisions were:
Construction, Manufacturing, International Companies, Professional and Business Services, Sales, Tourism Industry, and Transportation Industry. The Bahamas Employers’ Confederation and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce joined in 2011, to create one body that would better raise and enforce standards and enhance its offering to its members and the public.
Today’s Chamber now consists of several divisions and range in interest from SME and Family Island Development to Labour and Employment and Fundraising. The Chamber has moved from a small, tightly knit protectionist group to an expansive, democratic organization currently comprised of hundreds of members and with an influential voice at the policy level in the country. Of note, the Chamber reached a major milestone by joining the prestigious International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and World Chambers Federation (WCF) and continue to be the only local private representation for the International Labour Organization (ILO).