Business of putting Lake Mac on the map

CHANGE: “It’s a value proposition,” says Lake Macquarie Business Ltd’s inaugural president Ben Connell of its services. Picture: Marina Neil. BENJAMIN Connell, president of the newly minted Lake Macquarie Business Limited,jokes that hedoesn’t want you to know that he’s aCentral Coast resident.
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The important thing, he says, isthat he’s got a business on the main street of Belmont –he’s a founding partner at Emerge Business Advisory and Chartered Accountants.

All of which means he knows well the challenges of running a business and the challenges of his clients’ businesses.

More importantly, in his new role, as he told a packed room at last Wednesday’s launch of Lake Macquarie Business Ltd, or LMB, he wants to put Lake Mac on the map.

“People think [Lake Macquarie] is all about services and tourism but in Toronto and Cardiff we have large industrial areas, and to be able to promote those to the greater area is important,” he said at the launch.

LMB’s journey started in 2013, when various local chambers of commerce from the Lake Macquarie area met and, says Mr Connell, “agreed what they were doing wasn’t working”.

Council funding to the chambers was reaching an end and despite all their efforts, less than 2.5 per cent of the 13,000businesses in Lake Macquarie were members of their local chamber.

“To develop a plan, we needed to go back to basics, genuinely look and understand our strengths, weaknesses, opportunity and threats and then start the process of building a new organisation that truly supported Lake Macquarie businesses,” he says.

Mr Connell says the group went back to the drawing board to develop a new business chamber that will be “innovative, relevant and different”.

Business chambers from Charlestown, Belmont and Swansea are the founding members of the new entity, which will also support other local chambers.

Mr Connell says LMB’s “sutainable”business model offersthree tiers of membership programs ranging from free services to larger offerings for bigger businesses.

The new entity is still finalising its advocacy efforts but it will focus on urban renewal, building business capabilities, tourism and identity.

Creating jobs is also seen as crucial: “Youth unemployment in some Lake Macquarie suburbs is as high as 25 per cent and businesses are telling us that the kids aren’t ready to be employed. We need to be doing something about this to get our kids ready,” says Mr Connell.

LMB’s strategic partners are Dantia, Lake Macquarie’s economic development company, the NSW and Hunter Business Chambers and the Lake Macquarie Business Growth Centre, and it also has local partners.

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