I have been speculating how I may be able to describe the last financial year without uttering the words Corona Virus, I realised it was impossible so I thought I would get it out of the way early.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything we thought we knew about difficult economic conditions.
Like the businesses we represent, this past year has proven to be the most challenging year that I can recall.
Like our Member Businesses we had to adapt to the changing landscape, we had to close down our operations, pivot to work remotely and adjust to our new role which was one of supporting the business community by providing the right advice at the right time to hopefully get them through the restrictions. We had to make some difficult decisions ourselves on streamlining the operations of the BGCCI to best position ourselves post lockdown.
During March to May 2020 the CCIWA HR/IR helpdesk logged over $60K of assistance to our members for a BGCCI annual outlay of $6K, we certainly obtained value for money on this program in the last year.
We also worked very closely with our partner organisations, CCIWA and RCCIWA, to provide information to the Business Community in a timely manner. My representation on the Executive Committee of RCCIWA gave us direct input into the State and Federal Governments to assist in guiding them to provide timely and targeted financial support and stimulus measures. Kitty Prodonovich the CEO of RCCIWA is on the WA State Government COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce representing regional businesses.
During the lockdown we assisted as many business as possible, we reached out to all businesses that required support and utilised our connections to advocate for targeted stimulus packages across many industry sectors.
This year we have been supported by an additional Gold Partner and an additional four new Corporate Partners, our partners continue to show their ongoing confidence in the organisation and our role in the community.
We also managed through kind donations from Wespine and the Laminex Group to rebuild the floor in what was our bar area. Thanks also to the Men’s Shed of Bunbury for their assistance as well as from the BGCCI Board Members who gave up many weekends to help me complete what turned out to be quite an undertaking. We are pleased with the results. We also had repairs to a section of our roof completed and did some painting in the bar and passage area. However this is an old building and will require us to continue with the backlog of maintenance work required to keep the building in a usable condition.
The Halifax CCTV Tender, which we mentioned last year, was awarded to a local company in BTS, the project was managed by the BGCCI and I am happy to report the system was implemented early and below budget. The system which has 22 live video feeds into the Police station has received very favourable media reports in its effectiveness in preventing and solving crime in the Halifax Industrial Park.
We continue to host the Working Together program which aims to connect young Aboriginal people to Training, Apprenticeships and other job opportunities. Our Working Together Officer Kristy Carriage has renewed this program with her enthusiasm and local knowledge. The contract has now been extended for a further two years which will take the program out to six years in total.
The Geographe for Purpose group continues to advocate strongly for the local NFP sector and we are organising events later this year to highlight the importance of the sector in our community.
We embarked on a media blitz towards the end of 2019 and early in 2020. By utilising the support of our Gold media Partners, we had over 300 spots on GWN7, over 300 spots on MMM Radio and ongoing articles and columns in the South West Times. We thank these media organisations for their ongoing support to enable us to get our messages out.
Rob and I have been heavily involved in the BORR project with MRWA from late 2019, right through the lockdown period to the present day to ensure that we had input into the Tender process to ensure the maximum local spend. Prior to the formation of the Local Business Advisory Group we were unable to find a business in Bunbury that was interested in the BORR. They believed that it would be situation normal and that the tier 1 contractors would build the road with very little regard for local business and their capabilities.
With the co-operation of MRWA, the Federal and State Government and through the innovative approach taken by the BGCCI we had a minimum local spend amount specified in the Tender of $300 Million. We also got to define what a local businesses looks like and to redefine the “local” geographical area.
We estimate that through our actions we will achieve an additional local spend of around $200 million from the BORR project. When our community asks what the Chamber of Commerce does for the region we will be quoting this example for many years to show what is possible when we work together. We are now working with RTO’s and Recruiters to ensure we have a well trained and available workforce for the BORR project.
The post lockdown period from June has seen a rapid return to a new normal, I have been surprised and delighted at how the Business Community has reconnected with their Chamber and how our bookings for rooms, events and training has recovered and in some cases exceeded our pre-Covid levels.
However let me finish with a warning, we are not over this Pandemic as yet, I believe it has a surprise or two waiting for us. It is essential that local businesses that are doing well continue to assist and support those that are struggling to recover.
The future of the Chamber is still not assured and we will need the help of every member to advocate to the wider business community the value of membership if we are to survive.