“Frankston runs through my veins… it’s the wind in my sails.” Those were the words from Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson at the Frankston Business and Industry Chamber Design Sprint last month.
The online workshop was held to engage with business owners and key stakeholders, such as Mr Billson and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce’s Ray Deegan, to discuss the design and development of the new chamber.
Mr Billson’s inspirational speech on the importance of a business chamber continued, with him congratulating those who attended the workshop.
“The world is run by people who turn up,” Mr Billson said.
“If you want to have an influence or you’ve got some ambition or great bold vision, and you’re thinking that it could add some value, there’s one surefire way, it’ll have no impact is if you share it with nobody or discuss it only with yourself in the shower in the morning. I mean, that’s not going to bring about change. What does bring about change is participation, finding your voice and bringing forward your ideas, surfacing possibilities that others may be gravitating towards.
“All of a sudden you have a movement, you have an agenda, you have momentum and you have the possibility of achieving something that you aspire for or that you hope for your community.
“Well there’s wind in the sails. In my day job, I spend every moment of it trying to assist small and family businesses. Many of whom, have been inflicted upon by COVID in ways that are just devastating, but it also has brought about some new possibilities.
“There’s this co-dependency in the way people think about their local business community. Now consumers recognize that vibrant local business communities add community vitality, livelihoods, they add resilience. They add dimension to local communities…
“I’ve been a part of the Frankston community that long that it runs through my veins.
“I remember when National Mutual came and built what’s now the Bayside Centre. I remember then, we were talking about ‘possibilities’ and that, we were the coastal city. No one had coined a polycentric poly-city metropolis at that stage, but we knew that Frankston could be really sensational, a regionally significant centre, an activity district. We’ve heard all those words before, and maybe we were reaching for them too early, but we are seeing that kind of vision starting to take hold now. And I’m really jazzed about that… The wind is in our sails.
“Business is critical to our objectives as a city. We need a coherent and credible business and enterprise voice to help surface these possibilities. We need to be able to take our arguments, our aspirations, our frustrations, to those that can actually make a difference. So we need to advocate. We also need to help people imagine and articulate what could be better.
“The concept of the chamber organization is so crucial because it can bring that voice to public policy discussions. It can harness the collective wisdom and bring a considered argument to the table when judgement needs to be made, and decisions are being formed. It’s not just about telling the council what it should be doing. That’s not its role. It’s collaborating with the council.
“It’s having adult to adult conversations, including difficult ones. It’s surfacing your commercial wisdom to say why something that the council is doing or isn’t doing is impeding your opportunities to provide livelihoods for others. And therefore the chance for the city to grow and prosper.
“We can have an impact, but it needs to be credible. It needs to be a coherent story, not shrill and shouty. It needs to be a preparedness to engage, to collaborate, and to advocate for what we think can and should be done. It can help to advance that ‘potential’ that is always talked about in Frankston, so that it actually materializes, and we can make it our own for better livelihoods and opportunities into the future.
“We can lead innovation, not only in the way people see us, but the way we operate as businesses, we can collaborate across each other and get learnings and know-how, and uplift us all in our capacity to thrive.
“We can urge people to take a fresh look at our city because we’re fresh about it and we’re jazzed.
“We want to share that story. We can talk about the infrastructure and this chamber can advocate for that in partnership with the local council, we can make sure there’s appropriate land for livelihoods so that we can attract investment.
“Where are those livelihoods going to be nurtured? Are we going to be the education city that we talked about years ago? Are we going to play up the coastal element? Why aren’t there student accommodation facilities for universities in Playne Street to help re-energize that precinct? Why don’t we use the containment of the CBD to our advantage?
“What about the training and education advantages we offer, so that people can reinvent themselves or be their best selves and meet our skills needs. What about a business friendly environment? Are our councils, our regulators, those influencing our work – are they helpful to our cause? Or are they a hindrance? If they’re a hindrance what’s the motivation and how do we sustain it? Is it because there’s some broader public good and if so that’s okay, let’s get alongside them and work out how that public good can be met without a new obstacle or a needless headwind in our way.
“Finally, we can turn up for each other, for our city, for the ambition and possibilities that we talk about in Frankston, for the commencement of those ‘possibilities’ materializing, and maybe together through an organization like this, we can make more of them real.”