Region’s role in national spotlight | Jonathan Vandervoort

KEEP IT LOCAL: Give our region's retail and hospitality members a gift by buying in-store and celebrating in local eateries.

KEEP IT LOCAL: Give our region's retail and hospitality members a gift by buying in-store and celebrating in local eateries.

The Hunter Business Chamber held its historic 130th annual general meeting last week and it was my pleasure to be voted in as president for the coming term.

The chamber celebrated its many achievements over the past year with a clear focus also on the work ahead. It’s important to ensure our region remains engaged with both state and federal governments and with this in mind the chamber produced a response to the Australian Infrastructure Audit, recommending a stronger national focus on secondary cities and centres as a higher priority.

Newcastle and the Hunter play an important role in state and national economies and recognising this is significant for future planning.

The chamber avails itself of every opportunity to push for the revitalisation of this city and the wider Hunter with a strong belief that planning needs to focus on economically sustainable development while delivering holistic, integrated and effective transport and infrastructure solutions.

The chamber regularly engages with key stakeholders around challenges affecting the current business climate. This includes our call for greater understanding of the impact of additional public holidays, as well as the need to reduce administrative and compliance burdens placed on businesses. Small business is so important to our economy that we must sustain the commitment to bringing about positive change, helping them grow and succeed.

We are coming into an important time of year for our retail and hospitality members and I would encourage you to think about how we support them, celebrating the festive season in local establishments and buying in-store.

With a diverse regional economy comes many challenges, but more importantly it brings even greater opportunity. As we see positive changes in coal prices and construction related trades across the country we will see the impact this has on the supply chain and the need to ensure skills are relevant. Reform will be needed to ensure apprenticeships which have sadly been low in numbers over the past 18 months, deliver the skilled and qualified workers our economy needs.

The chamber also announced a new board of directors at its AGM. Chamber members have been fortunate to have had strong local leadership from the organisation’s board over a number of years and this new group of directors is no exception.

The solid leadership demonstrated by each and every one of our new directors will serve members extremely well. The new board is well placed to guide the chamber and advocate on behalf of all businesses for improved operating conditions. The Hunter Business Chamber works in partnership with NSW Business Chamber to deliver valuable services to members while providing an independent voice for the region. We continue to build on this relationship to deliver an even stronger and more successful future for businesses in this region. I am excited by the opportunities ahead and look forward to engaging with businesses in 2017.

We wish you a safe and prosperous end to 2016.

Jonathan Vandervoort President, Hunter Business Chamber