SHCCI chairman Steve Horton calls for community involvement

Southern Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SHCCI) chairman Steve Horton has laid down a challenge to the people of the Highlands.

Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

An article by John Hewson in the Southern Highland News on January 27 addressed the “decline” of Bowral.

His view was that Bowral was slowly losing its appeal as more national corporations come to town coupled with poor parking options.

The article received hundreds of responses from members of the Southern Highlands community and the issue of customer service was also raised.

Mr Horton said in order to fix the problems, the community needed to be involved and work together.

He said the chamber would be happy to facilitate a Bowral Master Plan Working Committee in order to create a proposal to put to both council and the state government.

“Such a committee requires experts in the field including architects, arborists, engineers and town planners,” he said.

“To those that are voicing their opinions about the region and how it operates- become part of the solution, join the chamber, attend our workshops and events and nominate to be on council’s committees.

“To be a strong voice we need to work together and with our elected representatives to ensure the Southern Highlands remains a place we all want to live and work.”

In terms of the visual appeal of the main street, Mr Horton said it needed a “major rethink” about plantings, parking, seating and traffic flow.

This issue does not fall under council control as Mr Horton said the RMS owned the mains streets of Bowral, Moss Vale and Mittagong.

On the problem of poor customer service, Mr Horton said businesses first needed to acknowledge the problem before the chamber could help them.

Last year SHCCI and TAFE Illawarra developed a training program around customer service, designed to help people in all levels of retail from junior employees right through to managers and owners.

The course was offered free of charge for businesses in the Highlands.

Not a single business signed up for the course.

“The course was promoted well- people simply did not believe they needed to improve their customer care/service,” Mr Horton said.

In 2017 the chamber is working with the University of Wollongong and TAFE to offer a Certificate IV in New Small Business that will guarantee entry into that degree at the Southern Highlands campus of UOW.

Again, Mr Horton said fixing these problems all came back to communication.

“For the chamber to do anything it needs specific input from the community.”

There was one problem nominated by Mr Hewson that Mr Horton said would be difficult to solve- rental prices in the main street of Bowral.

“Very few small or independent business can afford the rental of main street Bowral these days which is on par with places like Queen Street, Woollahra, Knox Street, Double Bay or Military Road, Mosman.”

The SHCCI has also nominated to be a representative on council’s Economic Development and Tourism committee which will tie in with the chamber’s work over the past three years with Destination Southern Highlands.

Mr Horton said there were now many people involved in the chamber who were willing to put suggestions forward which would be looked at during upcoming workshops in March.

Anyone interested in being a part of the Bowral Master Plan Working Committee can send ideas or a CV to Mr Horton at PO Box 799, Bowral NSW 2576.

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