Chamber important in city fabric

LEADER: Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin served as Chamber of Commerce president for over a decade.

FROM shop trading hour deregulation to stalling a parking meter proposal in the heart of the central business district, the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce has listened and advocated for businesses for 70 years.

Its formation can be traced back to April 1950 when the Mount Gambier Traders Association renamed itself the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce.

Mr C. J. Smith was reported as the first president in The Border Watch with early meetings held in the Jen’s Hotel “Green Room”.

Former chamber president and life member Lynette Martin – now Mount Gambier Mayor – recalled learning some of the history about the chamber through past members.

Ms Martin said she understood Jack Ascione – who headed an automotive traders association at time – discussed the chamber with Jack Hopgood as early as the late 1940s before it came to fruition.

“It is interesting to note that even back then it was felt desirable to have one voice representing the business community,” Ms Martin said.

Its executive and membership has included many of Mount Gambier’s business icons, spearheading campaigns and championing issues over the years.

Ms Martin – who joined the chamber in 2005 before being elected president from 2007-2018 – said many people involved had a strong passion for the success of Mount Gambier’s business community.

“Some people believe the Chamber of Commerce just represents people in Commercial Street but in actual fact it represents all businesses in Mount Gambier,” Ms Martin said.

“That is why I believe it is really important for every business in Mount Gambier to be a part of the chamber.

“By having strength in numbers it gives you better leverage when you do go to advocate on behalf of businesses.”

Ms Martin said the chamber had helped highlight how local businesses support the city, including schools, charities, community groups and sporting clubs.

“That is why I’ve always believed the community recognises the importance of the local businesses they support,” she said.

“Without a robust business community we would lose the economic fabric of our city.”

Ms Martin said shop trading hours was one of the most consistently contentious issues which has faced the Mount Gambier business community.

This included the chamber’s input throughout a series of discussions around deregulation, with Mount Gambier ultimately declared a proclaimed shopping district in 2003, allowing seven-day trading.

Ms Martin said the chamber also played a key role in stopping a proposal for parking meters to be installed in the city CBD.

Today, the chamber continues to build on its relationships forged over many years and remains the city’s independent business voice.