The Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) was founded in 1913 from what was known at that time as the “Lonja de Valores y Víveres de San Juan” (Assets and Provisions Exchange) constituted by a group of businessmen united for their mutual protection in matters strictly related to their individual enterprises. Originally, it was designed to serve as an arbitrary board to resolve controversies between businessmen. The “Lonja” became the center of the commercial activity of San Juan and the rest of the island.
If someone deserves credit for improving the action ratio of the PRCC, it was Sosthenes Behn, President of the Telephone Company. He was the first to have the vision to think that the “Lonja” (Assets and Provisions Exchange) should go beyond arbitration. It was he who assumed the leadership of the new doctrine that in a few years transformed the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce from an organization limited to commercial matters into an insular institution interested in the smallest activity that would benefit all Puerto Ricans.
The years during the First World War were difficult for the PRCC. In spite of the incredible prosperity registered in 1920, those years became complicated by the scarcity, restrictions and the psychology proper of times of war.
The Decade from 1921 to 1931 represents, in the history of this Chamber, a period of deep readjustment. During these ten years, the Chamber witnessed the displacement of the tobacco industry by the needle industry as the second industry in Puerto Rico, the amount of exports and others. Nevertheless, the Institution continued growing extraordinarily, in population as well as in influence. The PRCC has played a role of growing importance in the formation of public opinion and the attitude and norms of conduct of commerce regarding major problems.
In the course of the next twenty five years, between 1938 and 1963, the PRCC dedicated to strengthen, through orientation and direct actions, the most important activities in the daily life of the population, including production, distribution and consumption. It also centered part of its actions to forge the ideal of free enterprise which is an essential base of constitutional democracy.
During the period from 1963 – 1988, the PRCC amends its statutes to accommodate to the demands of a society in full socio economic development. Among the main changes are included the increase of the number of work committees by business sector, especially geared to strengthen the voice of private enterprise in both the Legislative and Executive Branches in Puerto Rico and at federal level.
Another institutional renovation movement includes the creation of rules that would serve as guide for the Institution’s operations in the main aspects of economy especially to promote exports, empowerment of small businesses, increase of manufacturing, the commercial growth of wholesalers and retailers and the expansion of professional and technical services. Also, during this period, the uneasiness and worries of the PRCC about the quality of life and the environment begin.
At the end of the 1960 decade, the incorporation of professionals in the administrative work group starts to increase as point of departure for a vigorous and effective participation in the legislative and administrative public hearings at all government levels. The PRCC starts systemizing the adequate operational mechanism to prepare and submit written or verbal memorials to different government organisms.
During the 1979 decade the PRCC changes the one-day Annual Assembly to an Annual Convention lasting three or four days and this event becomes the most important event of the year; not only for its members but for the entire community. It also starts organizing accreditation seminars, training, continued education seminars for entrepreneurs, executives and professionals of the business world. During this period starts a reevaluation of the services to members and a larger effort is made to improve them in all aspects.
During 1980 until 1988, the PRCC incorporates more dynamically in problem analyses and decision making of vital aspects of socioeconomic and civic-cultural progress in the country. During these years the structures of the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, the Sectorial Work Committees and the Administration were revitalized. Publications directed to members are improved, increasing interest of the media in the opinions and actions of the Institution, newspaper supplements are each time more extensive and appear in a greater number of newspapers during the Annual Convention.