JASON Deacon (pictured), president of the newly-amalgamated Gold Coast Combined Chamber of Commerce, says the new entity must be more than a “toothless dog”.
Why did the Surfers Paradise-Broadbeach, Central Gold Coast and Nerang chambers need to amalgamate?
We all wanted to be taken more seriously, run professionally, and have the budget to do what chambers are meant to do. We don’t want to be a toothless dog. We want to be able to bite every now and again and be listened to.
If we want the government to listen to business, we need to have a voice that supports business and you can’t do that without good finances. When a city like the Gold Coast is separated into 13 or 14 different chambers, all struggling for the same funding, it just doesn’t work. We want to be instrumental in bringing change to the coast. There are things we want to see come to the city.
We want to see extra tourism opportunities, like the cruise ship terminal, because that is good for local business. We want to see things like fly in, fly out services for the miners, to capture some of their income. We have world class education facilities, so if you are a miner and wanted somewhere that also suits the family, this is the ideal location.
We also need to look at other industries. We can’t just rely on tourism and construction for the next 20 years. Anything that brings new industry to the Gold Coast is something we are keen to help.
How has the amalgamation helped the organisation’s finances?
Right now we are paying for one administration staff member. In the past, we would have been paying for three. The simple maths says that is a good thing. Our event attendance has grown, at twilight meetings we are averaging around 130-140 people now. The size of events and the revenue generated from each event is increasing.
What advantages does the amalgamation bring for its members?
By representing 46 per cent of the Gold Coast, we can deliver bigger networking opportunities. We are very much looking at a whole of Gold Coast opportunity. We want to walk down the path of group buying and a bigger membership base allows that. Things like cheaper fuel and power. If we can get power cheaper for our members, that is what we have to start looking at through a chamber point of view.
The business trade show is a big event coming up in August and we are working with other chambers on that. It is going to be a whole of city trade show.
Would you like to see other Gold Coast chambers join the fold?
I believe there are still too many chambers on the Gold Coast. The model we have come up with [a vice-president for each member region] ensures everyone gets representation. I absolutely believe this could work across the entire Gold Coast.
We are happy to talk to any other chambers of commerce that might want to join in.
How does a chamber of commerce help business?
It is good for business owners to find other people who are going through the same stresses. That is what the chamber is about. There are not many true business people that don’t want to help other business people succeed. We want more businesses involved in the chamber. People need to be educated about how to do better business on the coast and how to get a better voice. They need to get in and be a part of something and impact change.
What can the Gold Coast do better from a business perspective?
Traditionally, the Gold Coast has come from a group of small towns that have joined. It is time the Gold Coast realised it is the sixth-largest city in Australia and started behaving like it. That goes from the chambers, the council, everything. Everyone’s attitude needs to change. If we want to be taken seriously on a world scale, we need to take ourselves seriously.
If we are serious about looking after our city, we should be looking after ourselves. I don’t know how many people I talk to who are using firms from Brisbane and Sydney, when there are perfectly good companies here on the Gold Coast they should be looking at.
What are the biggest issues affecting business?
Red tape is a big one for the construction industry. The government has to simplify red tape. The amount of certification that needs to be done these days to keep things compliant is out of control. Many small businesses struggle with marketing and advertising. They don’t know what to do and where to go.
How can the GCCCC take a leadership role for business in the city?
I see the chamber’s role as to represent business, not necessarily lead business. Our job is to help circulate information, help represent small business in matters involving council and government.
But we are only as strong as our members and we need our businesses to be members. There are a lot of businesses that aren’t members and who sit there and say: “The chamber doesn’t do anything for my business."
It is a membership-based organisation and our job is to represent our members. Become a member of the chamber if you want representation on a certain issue and we will look at it. We need feedback from our members on things that are affecting them. We need our members to open up the communication channels.
What is your leadership style?
I am very much results oriented. If I can’t see results, I get frustrated. I don’t like big talk fests, or time wasting meetings – it has got to have an outcome. If we have a meeting, we have to come out with action points that need to be done. For this amalgamated chamber, my role is to ensure the VPs represent their areas because they are going to be a lot more up front and vocal, while I will have my say on things like policy and issues that affect the whole region. As a whole, my job is to make sure they all work together.
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