By Helen Tatchell
It is common to hear the reason why people choose to live in Ballan, and for Michael Ryan and his wife Margaret, it is a familiar tale.
Mr Ryan lived in Horsham for 37-years and now is clocking up six-years in Ballan, all because of the available health and business services, proximity to Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat, family and the access to train services.
“And of course, the climate,” he said in jest.
He is the new President of the Ballan & District Chamber of Commerce, neutral and comes with no history.
“I understand the importance of small business in rural and regional communities.
“The local community should, where practicable, support local businesses, by giving them an opportunity to provide their goods and services,” he told the Moorabool News.
“It is also important that businesses continue to provide high levels of customer service.”
The former Horsham Rural City Councillor (2005-2012) and Mayor (2010, 2011) had a Chartered Accounting business that catered for mainly small business and farming clients. He employed 20-people.
Mr Ryan has a vision for the next two-years, that includes purpose, direction and leadership.
“The idea is to see if we are still relevant, we talk about representing the commercial sector if you like, providing opportunity, promoting industry in Ballan, and myself along with the new committee are looking at how we do that, the models have changed, social media and all that,” he said.
“My idea is to make sure people still want to be members of the chamber, for the networking and also for the learning and training opportunities.
“That is our challenge,” Mr Ryan said. “To make sure that we are still an attractable organisation to be part of and come along too, there must be a purpose.”
And a campaign to attract new members is on the agenda.
“The question is, what have we got to offer, why do people come out on a Tuesday in the middle of winter pay ex amount for a meal and go home thinking ‘well I could do that on a Saturday night’.
We need to ask ourselves the question ‘why would you do that’ and get some answers to around the ‘why’. And I think that is our major challenge.”
Mr Ryan is also encouraging people to share their business knowledge and information.
“Discussions and opinions can’t be adversarial all the time, In my short time in the chamber of commerce we haven’t shared local stories enough; there are lots of good stories out there in the community and I think we should have a segment every meeting where a business person is asked to tell their story, Q&A for five minutes, and just share the knowledge, share the experience, it is not all good, but a lot of it is, we don’t draw on our own resources enough,” he said.
Grasping the younger people in business with current IT, gadget and social media knowledge is a culture Mr Ryan is looking closely at.
“Our culture I think has to be about inclusiveness, include everybody. Young people today are more creative than I ever was, they have new skills and we need those to benefit the chamber.
“The committee have to have the courage to make decisions and the chamber is an opportunity to meet together, we don’t need a 5-star meal, just the opportunity to meet together.”
And finally, does see himself as a leader?
“I am quite happy to make decisions. I am quite happy to go and talk to people about anything that is ‘getting up their nose’,” he said.
Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of every month from 7pm.
Next Meeting – Tuesday 18 February at The Plough in Myrniong.
The March meeting will be held on Tuesday 17 March at the Gordon Hotel.