Having relocated from a large city to small rural village Murray and I have learned that the main difference, apart from size, is that development and progress in a small town has to be initiated and driven by the local community. In the Wollombi Valley, such local community activity is mainly coordinated through the Wollombi Valley Chamber of Commerce (WVCC).
The WVCC has been an important part of the Wollombi Valley community since 1992, as an organisation to represent local business interests. Now, the Wollombi Valley Chamber of Commerce is the largest representative community group in the Valley, and represents the majority of businesses throughout the district. Members are brought together by a common desire to see the district prosper, through the collective marketing of the Wollombi Valley and the sharing of ideas and experiences. The Chamber works to increase visitors to the Valley through tourism, which is the primary industry for the majority of businesses.
The WVCC is managed by an 11-person Executive Committee, voted by the members each August at the Annual General Meeting. There are regular meetings throughout the year of both the Executive Committee and the general membership. Everyone is welcome at the general dinner meetings, held every two months at one of the local cafes. These dinners are a great networking opportunity encouraging members to interact other local business owners.
Every year, in May, the Executive Committee distributes the Chamber Membership Survey, from which the input is compiled into the Annual WVCC Work Plan. This Work Plan sets the working priorities for the Chamber over the ensuring 12 months. Recent and current projects nominated by members and undertaken by the Chamber include:
- Initiating and coordinating a successful ‘Wedding Business Seminar’ for all members focussing on how the businesses of the Wollombi Valley could better capitalise on the (growing) wedding market and to promote networking.
- Working with the Cessnock City Council to have Wollombi Valley precinct signs erected using a new logo. Subsidiary signs featuring a logo have also been posted at main entry points into the Valley.
- Purchasing a half-wine barrel display to showcase Wollombi Valley promotional material to be displayed at the Hunter Valley Visitors Centre (HVVC) in Pokolbin.
- Commencing development of a new range of promotional brochures and maps for Wollombi Valley.
And, through a Social Media Strategy, maintaining a substantial focus on social media promotion, including:
- Developing a new contract and recruiting a Social Media Coordinator paid position.
- Commencing Instagram activities and achieving 600+ followers
- Developing a more disciplined approach to Facebook postings
- Developing a Social Media Style Guide
- Creating and promoting a Facebook Page exclusively for the use of Chamber members.
- Developing a monthly online newsletter for potential visitors to Wollombi (who subscribe to the ‘visit Wollombi’ webpage, and Chamber members
The major focus, however, for 2018/19 is the development and implementation of the ‘Wollombi Main Street Revitalisation Plan’. Wollombi is characterised by its peaceful natural and historic beauty, with the village main street at the heart of the region, playing a vital role within the community for residents, visitors, and tourists – a central destination in a sprawling rural district. A program of revitalisation for the village centre, promoting retail, commerce, hospitality, community and civic life, will provide a strong secure heart for the entire Wollombi Valley. This Revitalisation Masterplan, although focussing on the Wollombi Main Street, will align and enliven the greater Wollombi Valley region.
The WVCC is a dynamic organisation representing the community of Wollombi. It is vital that such an organisation, run by volunteers, develops and invigorates the Wollombi Valley to ensure it reaches its full potential remains a great place to live and an appealing and popular place to visit.
David & Murray