THERE was plenty to celebrate when the business communities of Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester got together at Taree’s Winning Post Function Centre for the 2014 Manning Gloucester Great Lakes Business Awards.
The major title, business of the year, was won by Golf Club Motor Inn Wingham, accepted by an emotional Paula Schultz.
Paula paid tribute to her staff. “The strength behind a business is the people you employ and the people behind the people you employ,” she said, thanking her staff and their families.
Two years ago Paula was living in Cairns and had never heard of Wingham.
“I didn’t even know which state it was in and then someone said that it was near Taree,” Paula explained.
“I was struck by the diversification of the area, bushland, rainforest and only 25 minutes from the ocean. There was just so much to see and do in the Manning Valley and I saw a great opportunity to promote the region by getting into the coach market.
“We began to actively market coach companies to brings tours to the Manning Valley, to promote Wingham and use it as a nucleus for tours of the region. We are within an hour’s radius of Gloucester, Forster, Port Macquarie - we are perfectly located.”
Paula described the future for the business as “exciting”.
“When we bought it, the occupancy rate was very low and this year we have at least 15 coach tours booked and all have a minimum of three to five night stays,” she said.
“It doesn’t just benefit us, it benefits the whole community. It brings business to our town but it also has a ripple effect and benefits other businesses in the Manning Valley.”
Runner-up business of the year was Our Heritage Financial Planning, accepted by Narelle Riley on behalf of principal Alan Tickle.
Taree accountant, Graham Brown received the Bruce Cowan award for outstanding contribution, for his work with Tidy Up Taree, Change the View Change the Valley, and Bushland Health, where he is chairman and treasurer.
For three minutes he spoke passionately about the need for local businesses to contribute more to their community and said he laughed nervously when it was all over, as he realised that he had forgotten to thank his family.
“I was so flabbergasted,” Graham laughed.
“It’s a little embarrassing and I haven’t been telling anyone because I’m not into this accolade stuff, but really, it is a good thing as it indicates the things that I am passionate about and committed to, like Tidy Up Taree, are supported by the community.
“So I’ve thought about how I can best use this accolade for the community and I think it means that we are on to a good thing and our business leaders need to really get involved and back the push for change,” Graham explained.
“People in business are decision makers – you don’t go into business or succeed in business without having to make a series of decisions. That is a skill that can help our community to grow.
“Rather than just dipping your hand into your pocket and giving $100 and getting someone else to do the community-building work, I think our business leaders should consider just giving some of their time, say 10 per cent of their time, like a church tithe, say a community tithe! It won’t cost them a cent but it will add so much to the development of the community in which their business exists.”
Linda Bryant from Photography by Linda and Inspire Life Strategies won the people’s choice and the young entrepreneur award and was inducted into the hall of fame.
Another award recipient, Megan Lewis of The Resolution Network commented that “winning ‘Best Start Up and Business Leader and receiving a highly commended in Excellence in Business Innovations and being a finalist in Excellence in Business Ethics has been a real honour and is a testament to the value of the services The Resolution Network provides.”
Manning Valley Business Chamber president, Geoff Jackson explained this year’s awards had been brought in line with the NSW Business Chamber, meaning several category winners were eligible to enter the State awards.
“The business chamber is the peak organisation and voice for business,” he said. “We are trying to pull together, to make us regionally significant, one voice, to get the things we need for this area to make it even better.
“We are fighting to make things happen.”
First time judge, Neil Hannington spoke on behalf of the panel, confirming the judging really is a tough task. “The standard and quality of entries was very competitive and the insight fills me with confidence for our future,” he said.
However he said the panel was disappointed in the lack of entries for the employer choice category.
The chamber’s economic development manager, Steve Attkins said it has been a very tough year economically but the Manning, Gloucester and Great Lakes shared a wonderfully rich natural environment and an abundant diverse and rich community.
Saxby’s Softs Drinks celebrated 150 years in business this year and CEO, Ian Turner was invited to share some of the business’s insights with the audience.