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Bega Valley Business Forum Showcases Pambula

Toast Pmbula

The Bega Valley Business Forum held its first open meeting since they changed their membership classes last year. Previously membership was only open to Chambers of Commerce within the Bega Valley but now affiliate membership is open to all businesses and organisations within the shire.

The event was held at Toast Café in Pambula and more than 20 people attended including BVSC Mayor Russell Fitspatrick and Councillor Wright. Forum President Nigel Ayling speaking at the event said, “We are excited to be embarking on this new era for the Forum and to be welcoming new members for the first time in over 20 years. Our new affiliate members include the member for Eden Monaro, Kristy McBain, Telstra, the University of Wollongong (Bega Campus), Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing, The Disability Trust and a number of other local businesses. It is great to see the support shown by these businesses for the forum and what we are trying to achieve.”

“The Bega Valley Business Forum operates like a regional chamber of commerce and includes 5 local chambers. We are the only regional organisation that supports local businesses and we play an active role in advocating to all levels of Government on matters of Regional importance. One of the current issues we are advocating for is the problems being faced with the Snowy Mountains Highway over Brown Mountain. This is a key transport route for the Bega Valley and connects us with the Snowy Mountains and Canberra. We are currently working with local groups to make this a priority for the Government.”

“Our other key projects include the Bega Valley Business Awards, which were held last year. This was the first time that a shire wide Business Awards program was held and it was a screaming success with 300 people attending. We are just starting to plan the awards for 2024 which will be held in June or July and we are looking for anyone who would like to volunteer to be part of the organising committee. We are having our first planning meeting on Wednesday 27 March and it doesn’t matter what you can offer, we welcome your support.”

After some formalities the President introduced the rest of the members on the committee which represented other Chambers in the area. Owen Simpson from Tathra was an apology but Mr Ayling relayed that the Tathra District Chamber of Commerce held their AGM on Monday and they had a great turn out and filled all 9 positions on their committee. They also talked about some plans for some big events in 2025.

Janet Doolin from Cobargo Tourist and Business Association spoke about recent events that were happening in Cobargo and Bermagui. “We recently held the Cobargo Folk Festival and the 125th Cobargo Show. Both events were a huge success with visitor numbers well up on previous years,” said Ms Doolin. “Work is also underway in the main street to begin some of the rebuilding of premises that were burnt in the Black Summer Fires and this will be great for our town.”

Eden Chamber of Commerce President, Eric Wolske said, “We must be doing something right in Eden because we only have 1 empty retail shop in the main street and the whole place is buzzing.” He provided updates on several projects including the Hospitality Container project down on the wharf that will provide an opportunity for four businesses to provide food services in the wharf precinct . “With progress made on the service connections, we hope to have those containers in use within the next few months.”

Then it was over to Pambula Business Chamber President Wendy Pursehouse to talk about Pambula and showcase some of the local businesses there.

The first of 3 businesses being showcased was Longstocking Brewery and Peter Caldwell spoke about the launch of their newly branded beer, Sapphire Coast Lager. Which represented the beautiful beaches of the Sapphire Coast. “We have been at Longstocking for 6 years and these cans represent our 300,000 beers so it’s a bit of a milestone for us. We have also held over 600 live music acts over that period, and we are very proud to support live music in our community.” He went on to introduce their new Venue Manager Ben Bayliss who talked about some of the changes they were making including moving their Friday night music to Saturday nights. “As a musician myself, I know Friday night gigs are hard, but everyone is up for a party on Saturday night so it makes sense to move them. We will be introducing new theme nights on Friday to fill that space though and we have lots more exciting things in store, so watch this space.”

Next up was Cat Coathup from Nine Circles Distillery. She spoke about the “wild ride” that it had been for them over the past 2 years and that it had been a steep learning curve. “We have created some award winning gins and our whiskey is starting to mature and should be available soon. We are currently producing Gins for local businesses including Dulcies and The Dromedary Hotel in Tilba. Of course the big news is that we are not far away from opening our cellar door in Pambula in the new building next door to Robert Smith Homemaker Centre. This will include our tasting room & bar, alfresco dining area with light meals as well as classes and events. Our new distilling equipment will arrive in the second half of this year enabling an increase in production and more opportunity for visitors to learn about how whiskey and gin are made. We also hope to have live acoustic music sessions on weekends to help create a relaxed vibe and an enjoyable space to taste our products.”

The final business being showcased was the host premises, Toast Pambula. Owner Nicky Austin said, “This premises had doubled in size since we first opened and we have gone from employing 6 people to 21 and I am basically the HR manager now. We love what we have created here and we could have sat on our coat tails and stuck with what we have got, but we love a challenge, and so last week we opened another business in Eden. Ollie (her partner) and I have always loved Eden and when Sprout closed down we saw an opportunity there. Doing the renovation there was a lot of work and during the renovation our Pambula shop was robbed which made it a very stressful week, but the doors are open now and we are excited to be there.“

Proceedings came to an end with President of the Forum Nigel Ayling thanking everyone for their attendance, and encouraging everyone to support their local chamber, by becoming a member, or for larger organisations with a regional presence to consider joining the BVBF. “We are all volunteers and we do what we do because we love it, but we need the resources to continue to do our work, which includes fees from membership and people power, so if you are interested in helping out, put your hand up and volunteer on one of the committees.

“The next forum meeting will be a committee meeting held in April followed by another open meeting showcasing Eden on the 8th of May. If you want to keep up to date with what is happening subscribe to the Forum newsletter or follow us on socials. “

The event concluded with networking opportunities over nibbles and drinks thanks to Toast Pambula, and Longstocking.

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