A buzz about the city, fewer shop vacancies and a drive for membership are buoying the newly re-elected president of the Goulburn and District Chamber of Commerce.
Local solicitor Mark Bradbury was reappointed to the role in August after stepping in four months earlier to fill the breach left by Alex Ridley’s departure. He’s keen to take the Chamber’s momentum to another level.
“While there are things I’d like to get done, I also want the Chamber to have stability,” Mr Bradbury said.
He’s been practicing in Gouburn for the past 25 years, having moved back to his hometown from Sydney with his wife and children.
Mr Bradbury has strong connections to the area. His father, Roger hailed from Taralga, but Mark grew up in Goulburn before deciding to study Law.
Since he’s been back, he’s noticed a dramatic change in the pace of life.
No longer do business owners knock off at 5pm, go home, eat dinner and go to a Chamber meeting. They’re either still working hard at the premises or doing something business-related at home. These days the Chamber holds early morning meetings to accommodate busy schedules.
“The role of the Chamber in any city or town, but particularly regional centres, is facing change,” Mr Bradbury said.
“(We) are in discussion with other Chambers in the region about the role and workings of Chambers of Commerce in the 21st century. Through the NSW Business Chamber secretariat we hope to hold a workshop attended by other Chambers.”
That’s partly why Goulburn has jumped on board the council’s ‘Smart Cities,’ strategy, a blueprint for a digital future. Mr Bradbury says it’s key to attracting large employers. Three to four years ago, visitors to the Goulburn stand at the Sydney Royal, which Chamber members helped man, wanted to know about the city’s job opportunities. Now they’re hungry for information about internet connectivity, the Chamber president says.
“There’s an opportunity to capture people who want to move here from Sydney, buy a lifestyle block and run an office from home,” he said.
“We’ve suggested to the council that it answers this question (of internet connectivity) in a constructive way.”
But it’s also crucial to attracting tourists who want to hook into Wi-Fi during their stay.
It’s all linked to creating a healthy business environment, Mr Bradbury argues. Latest figures show a decrease in CBD shop vacancies. But even when empty, he believes there’s a chance to showcase Goulburn’s rich heritage through temporary displays and attract more visitors.
“The city’s heritage can be used to draw more tourists,” he said.
“Once they’re here we can get them to stay longer and have a more involved visit. That can only be good for business.”
Similarly, he’d like to see more advanced notice of tourist events, giving not just visitors but locals time to plan.
The Chamber’s involvement in civic affairs has gone up a notch this year with former Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor Geoff Kettle’s appointment as business development manager. His role is to grow membership but also opportunities and to liaise closely with the council and political representatives.
In a similar vein, the Chamber has enlisted an interesting round of guest speakers, including Mayor Bob Kirk, council general manager Warwick Bennett and Nick Cleary, the chairman of Consolidated Land and Rail Australia, which is planning a fast train between Sydney and Melbourne.
On Wednesday, Stockade Brewco CEO Anton Szpitalak will speak to members about progress on his South Goulburn brewery; on November 2, the meeting will be held at Workspace, and on November 8, Hume MP Angus Taylor will address a meeting.
Mr Bradbury is upbeat about the city’s outlook, despite the challenges.
“Everything you read in the national press is about casualisation of the workforce, mortgage stress and flat wage growth. How much of this is reflected in local business, I don’t know,” he said.
“But certainly the town has a more encouraging vibe about it. One only has to look at the housing development around Marys Mount and that will continue to occur with the imminent release of large tracts of land.”