Set against the backdrop of the Bayonne Golf Club, the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce marked its 100th anniversary in style, hoping to lead the city’s business community into new posterity in its second hundred years.
In a nostalgic mood suiting the event, Chamber President Vincent Virga said that looking out the window at New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty made him think it would be a perfect night for fireworks.
“This is an important evening and an historical evening,” Virga said. “An anniversary is a day when we reflect. All of us have fond memories of Bayonne and what this town has provided us and our families over the years through the vision, passion and dedication of the business community. So it is important that we honor those that set the groundwork for us today. And we must remain focused on staying the course, so we can realize future aspirations, because without hope and vision, there cannot be progress. I’m confident that our future will be even brighter than our past.”
One time Man of the Year honored
Part of that past was Vincent Daniel, a former Man of the Year for the Chamber. He had been instrumental in helping bridge the gap between business and government during the 1950s and 1960s, a time when the Chamber represented many significant national corporations which had their facilities in Bayonne.
Daniel worked for more than 40 years at one of two Pharma Chemical Corporation facilities in Bayonne before moving on to a facility in Union where he became a manager in Human Recourses.
Pharma Chemical, which later was absorbed by a joint venture and eventually became Bayer Chemical, developed textural dyes used for many of fashions of the mid-century. During World War II, the company converted to development of medicines for use on the front. After the war, Daniel was influential in the development and design of a sewage system near the plant. In 1950s, Daniel became a spokesperson for his company
Born in Bayonne, where he attended Bayonne High School, Daniel graduated from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. Through the Chamber, he used his great influence in the 1950s in helping to foster economic growth in the city. He served as the chair for the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.
Mayor Mark Smith said in honoring him that Daniel was very important in integrating business into the community.
“He is a great citizen of the city,” Smith noted.
Standing almost shyly before the crowd, Daniel pointed out the window toward the harbor below and said he used to swim out there when he was a boy and that he recalled sailing across harbor from Robbin’s Reef Golf Club to Brooklyn.
“I dream about Bayonne, growing up here and it being a beautiful place to live,” he said. “Seeing this now, I’ve come to appreciate what the people here have done for the city. It is beautiful and it is tremendously important.”
“If anyone asks me what the future of the economy of New Jersey is, I’m going to tell them to take a drive to Bayonne.” – Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno
Founded in 1912, the Chamber has continued to reinvent itself to reflect new economic conditions in Bayonne. Over the last few years, there has been a major effort to continue to meet its mandate to “stimulate, retain, improve, and expand the role of business life in the community.”
In the past, the Chamber represented heavy industry and large manufacturers, but lost focus as these types of businesses gradually left Bayonne. In the heyday of the 1940s and 1950s, the Chamber of Commerce was seen as a powerful voice in the community, helping City Hall to shape pro-business policies.
In 1964, larger industry in Bayonne became more deeply involved with the Chamber and the city because of their concern over taxes. Since then, the business mix has changed and a number of the current members are small to middle-sized retailers, as well as local service providers.
The Chamber has had a role in establishing many modern business innovations, such as the Town Center Management Corporation and Urban Enterprise Zone, although each organization serves a slightly different purpose.
Attending the event was Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who described her first trip to the Bayonne Golf Club as “breathtaking.”
“If anyone asks me what the future of the economy of New Jersey is, I’m going to tell them to take a drive to Bayonne,” Guadagno said. “We could talk about the tough times we’ve had over the last few months, how things are beginning to look up around the state, but I think by simply coming here to this golf course says a lot. I know it was hard to get done. I’ve seen enough of the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] over the last two years to know. I’ve seen enough of politics and I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re on. I know how hard it was to do this. It can’t be done without the support of the entire community of business people. You all have to say that you want to make the next hundred years better than the great hundred years you’ve already had.”
She said places like the golf course prove that Bayonne is doing things right, and better than other places in the state.
“It can be done, and it is being done here,” she said.
Mayor Smith, who joined the party late because of pressing business elsewhere in the state, went on to pay tribute to the chamber said that its advocacy for business and industry play a significant part in the development of the city.
“To move forward, we have to know where we came from,” Smith said. “I apologize for being late. It is important that I be here to mark this important occasion. The Chamber had contributed much to this city and the people who represent our hope for the future.”