Tonight: South Jersey’s biggest business bash … 150 years in making

Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey to hold sesquicentennial celebration in Camden on Battleship New Jersey

Christina Renna, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, made one thing very clear: There will not be a lot of speeches at the organization’s sesquicentennial celebration Thursday night on the Battleship New Jersey on the Camden Waterfront.

Perhaps none at all, she said.

“We want the celebration to be truly that – a fun celebration that brings together top-tier business and community leaders from across the state,” she said. “Other than a champagne toast, it’s all about the networking and having a good time.”

The chamber — and its more than 1,200 members — have earned it.

A force in the Camden area for longer than even its members realize (seriously, who had 150 years on their bingo card?), CCSNJ has been instrumental in the area since it was founded in 1873 as the Board of Trade of Camden — making it just four years younger than Campbell Soup Co., a supporter since Day One.

The group’s mission, Renna said, always has been about economic development in the region.

“Members of the Board of Trade worked together to bolster industrial development in the city, particularly manufacturing, and touted the region’s advantages to the outside world with a vision that the gain of one large industry would add to the success of others, and increase the amount of money spent annually in Camden,” Renna said on a celebratory video.

In the early years, the Board of Trade shared the great news of development with members, residents and subscribers outside the region through the Board of Trade Journal, which was published monthly to promote Camden as a bigger, better, greater and more generally known industrial city.

Imagine that: A business journal being at the heart of it all.

The publication covered development of the port, construction of the Delaware River Bridge, growth of Campbell Soup Co., a new building for the Victor Talking Machine Co., construction of the city’s Walt Whitman Hotel and plans to revamp the city’s infrastructure and transportation network to support business growth, among other important initiatives.

Want to go?

Online registration is closed, but walk-up registration will be available at the ship.

Camden’s growth led to a bigger and better — and often renamed — chamber.

In 1919, the Camden Board of Trade was renamed Chamber of Commerce of the City of Camden (which was incorporated by the state of New Jersey in 1920). And, by 1924, the chamber noted that more than $50 million had been invested in Camden industries, a gain of 54% over the previous five years.

Over the next century, the vision of the organization’s founders became a reality — and the impacts of Camden’s growth spread beyond its borders and throughout the region. As such, the chamber’s footprint also grew, and its name changed in 1930 to the Camden County Chamber of Commerce and in 1988 to the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey.

One thing has stayed the same, Renna said.

“The heart and mission of this organization stays true to its roots — advocating for South Jersey’s economic prosperity, uniting community leaders with a common goal of improving the region’s business climate and empowering businesses to grow, prosper and build a dynamic community,” she said.

All of this and more will be celebrated Thursday night, starting at 5:30.

More than 425 have registered to attend. Renna feels the final number will hit 500. If you haven’t registered, there’s still time and plenty of room. After all, it’s on a battleship.

So, come if you can and enjoy the view (Renna promises fireworks), perhaps get an opportunity to shoot a cannon (seriously, there will be a drawing) and enjoy plenty of food and drink.

Just no speeches.