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Bega Valley Business Forum opens doors to new members

New Direction

The Bega Valley Business Forum is excited to launch their new strategic plan, which includes welcoming new members for the first time in its history, at an upcoming event during Small Business Month.

The Forum has been the preeminent business organisation in the Bega Valley for over 20 years, providing a regional voice for local Chambers of Commerce in the Bega Valley. It has supported businesses through their local chambers, advocated for change to Local Government policies and worked with all levels of government on matters of regional importance.
Since 2020, the forum ramped up its work, notably by applying for a number of funding applications. Forum Chair Nigel Ayling says “In the past 3 years we have successfully applied for and managed over $400,000 in grant funding to deliver on a range of projects

It started with funding received after the bushfires from Resilience NSW which lead to a series of Town Summits so that each Chamber could create a plan for their town and a short list of projects to deliver. ” Some of those projects included tree planting and greening, new town signage, lighting, new branding and websites, town maps, history walks, small business month events and community events in Cobargo, Tathra and Pambula. Earlier this year the forum ran the first Regional Business Awards for the shire, an event that was hailed as a great success by all.

The forum also received a further two rounds of funding from the Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal (FRRR). The first round employed consultants to seek and apply for further funding and the second round supported capacity building with the Chambers and included Governance Workshops to support committees of not-for-profit organisations.
Mr Ayling says, “Our Chambers and the Forum are made up of hard working volunteers who put countless hours in to projects, different causes and events for the benefit of local communities, but it is hard to find people willing to volunteer their time when everyone is so busy. The funding has been an enormous boost to our members and has allowed us to shift some of the burden away from the volunteers and provide them with the resources to deliver on their goals and objectives.”

But in a major shift, the Forum is now opening up its membership to organisations other than just Chambers of Commerce. At a committee meeting on 13 September the forum passed a motion which will open membership of the forum to persons with similar objectives to the BVBF including individuals, businesses, corporations or incorporated associations .

Mr Ayling explains, “In the past membership of the Forum has been restricted to only Chambers of Commerce which means in towns like Eden and Merimbula, where they have a Chamber and a separate Tourism Organisation, only the Chamber could be a member. Now those Tourism Organisation are able to join as affiliate members which means the forum can better represent and support more businesses. If one of the Tourism organisations joined the Forum, the benefits would straight away flow through to their members. This also means that other local organisations with similar objectives can join the forum as well, and receive the benefits of being part of a regional body.“

The new affiliate membership class also means that larger companies and organisations that want to be connected to Chambers at a Regional Level can join. “We have been approached by a number of organisations over the past few years like NBN and Snowy 2.0 who want to be involved, but couldn’t because we didn’t have a membership class for them. For companies like this they will now get the chance to become affiliate members and work with the peak regional body and develop relationships at all levels. These changes were necessary if we want the Forum to remain strong for the next 20 years, and it is great to see that our members have recognised this and are ready to embrace change,” said Mr Ayling.
The forum is holding a major event to launch the new format at Kitty’s Bar in Merimbula on Thursday 19 October. “This will be a great opportunity for organisations and businesses right across the shire to come together and hear about the exciting changes and get involved in the Forum. We will be inviting key stakeholders to come along and see the vision for the forum while enjoying some refreshments in a relaxed atmosphere”.

There will be some guest speakers including Jemma Tribe who is President, of the Shoalhaven Business Chamber, Managing Director of the Nowra Community Food Store, Communications Consultant, Speaker/MC and 2023 Zonta Women of the Shoalhaven Awards – Business Winner. “ I am excited to come down and talk to Bega Valley Businesses about how the Shoalhaven Chamber has grown over the years and share some key leanings “ Miss Tribe said.

Nicole Webber from Quality M atters Consulting will be hosting a discussion panel at the event with local Chamber President and Industry leaders who will share their insights and vision for the area. “I will be talking about the different ways people can contribute to their business community through their head, their hearts and their hands, and helping people find their tribe. It’s a different approach to look at how people can get involved in a movement in a way that suits their individual personality,” said Ms Webber.

The week after the event the forum will hold its AGM on Wednesday 25 October at 6.15 at Club Bega. Individuals and organisations that are interested in attending or becoming members can contact us via our website.

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