“There are four ingredients in true leadership: brains, soul, heart and good nerves”. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

There has been no mistaking it 2020 has been quite the year on a number of fronts. It has been a period of extraordinary change and circumstance, with highs and lows for all of us.

The 147th Fremantle Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting of Members was conducted on Tuesday evening to a full quorum of members, and then some.

The annual report from the Chamber President Ivan Dezba and I as the Chamber CEO were positively received, along with the presentation of the Audited Financial Report from Chamber Treasurer Lee Bartlett.

We said farewell to two of our longstanding Trustees of the organisation as they retired this year Mr Doug Kerr and Mr John Longley, and the members approved the updated Constitution to ensure compliance under the new rules of the Associations Act WA 2015.

New Board Member Danielle McNamee from Processworx was officially appointed, and current Board members Lee Bartlett and Marc Greco renewed their terms. Current Chamber Vice President and Chair of the Development and Infrastructure Committee Franco Andreone was awarded Life Membership of the Chamber for his dedication to the organisation across more than a decade.

A copy of the 147th Annual Report is now available for download here.

2020 has demonstrated the crucially important role that the Fremantle Chamber has to bring together our business community, and provide an active voice for business. The volitility of the economy continues to challenge, and we are working hard to respond to these challenges.

The Board have had a positive year firmly up our Governance and Risk procedures, we have restored the financial deficit from last year to enable the commencement of urgent conservation works on our historic building and to set aside a provision for loan repayment.

The Chamber building is a focal point for the work we do and an asset that is owned by our members. It is re-assuring to know it will now hopefully keep standing for another 150 years or so.

I am enormously proud of the passion, vision and hardwork of our Board, our Committees, my Chamber staff and our members to help drive a significant change program that has resulted in such a positive energy around the Chamber this year.

Last year you will recall I noted the very challenging end to the financial year at the Chamber as we uncovered the depth of the significant restoration work outstanding on our beautiful and magestic 1912 Phillimore St home, an inherited deficit and a declining tenancy and membership base.

I am so pleased to say that each one of these issues has been turned around and we have seen:

  • Almost 80% completion on Phase 1 -2 of the restoration works to this majestic building that is now water tight and has mortar between all bricks of her long standing walls.

Chamber Members SIDI Construction have done an outstanding job addressing the work that needed to be done and flexibily approaching the other things that arose as is often the case in restoration works of this size and on buildings of this age. (pics in Annual Report). We will look to generate further funds over the next 12 months to start Phase 3 works to the rear façade of the building.

  • A 24.3% increase in our membership base, and growth across the diversity of different industry sectors represented by the Chamber.
  • Our Building achieved full tenancy in the month pre-COVID, and despite a couple of losses over the COVID-19 fallout we are now back up 17% on budget, with the newly released 2 leases now back under offer.
  • Our export income has seen a 7% increase up on budget, picking back up after the challenges of the COVID-19 period.
  • Our social media engagement is up 529% on instagram, 40% on facebook and 34% on linked in.
  • A total 1,478 individuals attended our Business After Hours, Leadership Lunch, and our Learning events across the year, with 728 individuals downloading our newly initiated PODCAST Set the Month in Motion Episodes – established in partnership with the City of Fremantle’s Business Capacity Building program. The structure of these online line forums proved a positive launchpad as we transitioned to online events during lockdown earlier in the year. It is these connections that sit at the heart of how we can come together to make a difference and create better connections between our business leaders.
  • Not only did all events through the year achieve record numbers, but they also all broke even or made a small line contribution to revenue.

COVID-19 obviously presented a unique set of challenges and risks. We developed a strong risk management strategy at the outset which enabled us to protect our staff but also continue to man our Export Desk for manual certification, and continue to engage our members through digital events and advocacy positioning.

We are so lucky to do business in this part of the world and there has never been a more rewarding time to be active part of this connected, diverse and wonderful business community.

Strong advocacy wins – such as the COVID-19 response for business and our membership survey, the Water Corporation’s Pipes for Fremantle Plan, raising awareness of the Southern Transport Corridor, input into the Victoria Quay Steering Group, positive outcomes for the City’s plans for a Visitors Centre, and our Experience Fremantle from the Inside Project – saw the profile of the Chamber raised. As well our Committee’s being active catalysts for activation ideas delivered by the CIty of Fremantle such as January’s Dinosaurs in Fremantle, the Lego Activation, the recent WAFL Grand Final and our proposed Window Activation, planned in partnership with the CIty of Fremantle, for later in the year.

We are extra-ordinarily proud of our work with St Pats, Uniting Way and the Rise Network to initiate “Doorstep Dinners” with the assistance of Minderoo and the McCusker Foundation, and later the support of Fremantle Ports. This incredible program that delivers social and economic returns is now being modelled in Perth and the Hills and has seen over 18,000 meals delivered to those in need since its launch in April. A significant achievement for all involved.

In admist all these challenges and change, I am so proud with what we have achieved in such a short period of time with all of our KPIs under our Strategic Plan being met or exceeded..

We have welcomed the Department of Communities and Transport as Corporate Partners of the Chamber and initiated a drive to explore Fremantle From the Inside. Distributing some 40,000 explore maps from our partnership with Hello Perth and offering unique tours across the City to their employment base of some 1,900 individuals, as well as ensuring all those who come into Fremantle each day can find the treasures that make this place so unique.

We also welcomed the merger of the Fremantle Tourism Association (FTA) with our Fremantle Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee. This alignment allows us to provide a common voice for the Tourism industry in Fremantle, and also continue to provide for the networking that the FTA importantly provided to build collegiance amoungst our Tourism operators and providers.

During COVID-19 we also extended our digital reach via online forums and live feed sessions, including two Q&As with State and Federal Elected members and Ministers. The total reach for these digital events was 432 business leaders between March and June.

Our small team at the Chamber, our generous Corporate Partners and Sponsors, our Board, our Committees and our members are the life and energy behind our Chamber.

I thank each of you for your commitment, time and resources to helping achieve this.

I am really positive that the strong platform we have now created will enable us to exceed the targets set by our Strategic Plan and that this time next year we will be looking at a very different Fremantle.

Thank you for your ongoing support.