My vision and hope for the Shepparton community this time last year was to have our regional city open, free of Covid lockdowns and thriving.
I am proud that although we now live in an era with a different type of “lockdown” through Covid, our City once again is alive, well and businesses are booming.
Some challenges remain socially and for business.
We will find a way as a community to cater for the needs of those citizens who require public housing.
We will find a way to ensure that education at all levels of school, tertiary and trade offer the best for our children, youth and young adults.
We have changing faces on Council with the departure of Rob Priestly and the stepping down of Mayor Kim O’Keeffe, as she makes the bold move of heading for state politics.
We are well catered for with the Mayoral position taken up by Cr Shane Sali who brings youth, strong intelligent leadership, and a vision for the community for the next 50 years.
Covid is not behind us but with the availability of vaccines and practicing common sense by mask wearing and social distancing, I hope the people of Shepparton can be relied upon to protect themselves and their families as best they can.
Much has been achieved in the CBD with the progress of the mall rebuild well into the program and on track for a completion by November.
This beautiful new precinct will consolidate the CBD and with the future plan to redevelop Fraser Street, we will have a Town Square under the tower complimenting a vibrant business and recreation hub.
It is heartening that so many of what were empty commercial premises in Shepparton have been leased and occupied with new business and new enterprise taking up those spaces.
The next step in developing success in Greater Shepparton is the possible availability of accommodation owned or rented, for people who are not interested in a large patch of land to care for.
This is in addition to the need for public housing and would suit the needs for working people who, if possible, would choose to live in the CBD.
The challenge for developers is to create street level commercial space with apartment living above which can further enhance the idea of CBD living.
For this to be achieved, we will need the support of Council in town planning to make such developments a realistic challenge for those with the interest and vision to create CBD living mixed with commercial business.
For the third year in a row, Council granted Complimentary Parking for the festive season and as a gesture of support to the whole community, provided complimentary parking for four months last summer.
I hope that we as a community can look forward to more such Council support ongoing to stimulate the sense of wellbeing that complimentary parking offers.
The magnificent SAM gallery opened in November 2021. An important and beautiful asset now open to showcase the vast artworks held in Shepparton and now also providing both a café and rooftop function centre for those who wish to enjoy a bird’s eye view over the lake and Goulburn River and to increase the visitor experience in Shepparton.
In tourism, MOVE adds a unique opportunity for people to see history both modern and historic in automotive as well as the world class Thomson garment collection.
The visitation rates to both SAM and MOVE have been extraordinary since their openings in 2021 and prove that the vision for both these stand-out venues are worth the hard work in planning, fundraising and making it happen.
Close to the MOVE location is the Shepparton Botanic Gardens, a stunning example of community effort located on a reclaimed tip site. This location is now linked by a walking bridge that joins with the current Goulburn and Broken River trail which traverses Shepparton from North to South.
In all this, The Chamber of Commerce and Industry plays a crucial role in advocating for business, being the voice of Shepparton to the council and to government.
With an active board of volunteers, the Chamber intends to create new networking and education possibilities for businesses.
The past two years have been difficult, but the Chamber has not been in recess but rather working in the background during lockdowns assisting businesses needing advice and advocacy.
Most of the events and functions that were planned but stalled due to lockdown are back on the agenda this year.
In August, Chamber partnered with the Council and GV Brain to host a dinner with Anna Meares (Olympic cyclist) as keynote speaker.
The event featured the concept of working through adversity and how that translates to business.
At the end of 2022, (October) the Chamber will host the Business Excellence
Awards, an event that rewards and showcases Shepparton business and staff in many different categories.
This event is the red-carpet night, so enjoyed over the years and this year features the 25th anniversary of this event.
With innovation during Covid, adapting to the times, many new infrastructure projects, Shepparton is well placed to be an attractive option for people and families to relocate to Shepparton and enjoy a lifestyle that is second to none in Australia.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry intends to work with all groups that aim to make Shepparton the place to do business, to raise a family and to live.
Through success in business, jobs are created, which provides incomes for individuals and families and the flow on effect is obvious.
Shepparton is alive and open for business in 2022 and beyond!