AN "audit of business potential" will seek to provide Taree businesses with a foundation on which to develop an action plan to invigorate the central business district.
Guiding that audit in mid-June will be social innovator David Engwicht and, by his side, accountant, Graham Brown. Mr Brown knows a thing or two about numbers as a director of GPB Partners in Taree and a thing or two about community engagement as organiser of Tidy Up Taree.
As part of the inaugural Tidy Up Taree event in November last year, Greater Taree City Council delivered David Engwicht to the Manning Valley to "give us the once over", according to Mr Brown.
The Change The View, Change The Valley event on November 29 was held in the Waterfront Room, behind The Exchange Hotel and it rallied about 120 people from our business community and council. The event was the first time council and the business community had united in number to seek perspective, advice and inspiration from an individual credited with revitalising central business districts with community engagement skills that help "individuals, communities, organisations and decision-makers to think outside the box.
Officially, the visit to Taree involved a workshop with council staff, a guided tour of the central business district of Taree with a small group of businessmen and the Change The View, Change The Valley event. However, Mr Brown said Mr Engwicht decided to also explore the central business district alone, visiting stores, talking to staff and owners and importantly, during the Tidy Up Taree event visit to speak to more than 100 of the volunteers.
"His impact on our community in that short period of time was significant. I had at around eight to 10 people say to me that he has to come back," Mr Brown said.
"Well, the good news is that he is coming back and now we have a very real opportunity to create change. He is all about community engagement.
"The days are over that we can give the responsibility of creating community to councils. For years we have delegated all of the decisions and work required to local government and really, it's not working."
Mr Engwicht will return to Taree on June 16 and 17 to work with a specific group of retailers and Mr Brown said he had agreed to extend that visit for an additional two days to "conduct a large audit of our businesses potential and attitudes with a view to developing an action plan."
"Not a massive master plan but a series of small projects that will make our place better and more liveable with a view to attracting more people to join us," Mr Brown said.
Mr Brown seeks $500 from each interested business to pay Mr Engwicht's expenses and to hopefully deliver funding for an initial community project.
"I know times aren't conducive at present to be asking for money but if we don't start to bring about change we may continue on the job loss trail that has been happening in our valley for the past five years. So can we afford not to contribute?"
Mr Brown said that Greater Taree City Council had again agreed to contribute "so the more we can raise, the more we will get done. As he will be conducting an audit of businesses we can assure contributing businesses of one-on-one time with David. We will then have an informal workshop on Thursday evening where the results of the audit will be presented and an action plan agreed upon."
Mr Brown said interested businesses can make payment of $500 using the following methods:
You can make a cheque payable to Tidy Up Taree and send it to PO Box 918 Taree; or drop it into the office of GPB Partners at 216 Victoria Street, Taree; or bank directly to Tidy Up Taree BSB 637000 Account 105941625 or if you need an invoice please contact GPB Partners on 6551 1660 and one will be sent to a provided email address.
For more information on Mr Engwicht visit www.creative-communities.com