Mayor calls for a collaborative approach to economic development

Cooma Visitor Centre manager Donna Smith, Cooma-Monaro Shire mayor Dean Lynch and Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Kathy Kelly presented at the chamber dinner on Tuesday night.

Cooma Visitor Centre manager Donna Smith, Cooma-Monaro Shire mayor Dean Lynch and Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Kathy Kelly presented at the chamber dinner on Tuesday night.

COOMA-Monaro Shire Mayor Dean Lynch has called for collaborative approach to improve economic development in Cooma, urging the local business community to join forces to create a more sustainable economic future for the town.

At Tuesday night's Cooma Chamber of Commerce and Industry dinner, Cr Lynch presented the Economic Development Plan which outlined a number of key areas council will focus on to generate growth in Cooma's business and industry sectors.

He spoke about the need to create more education opportunities, the importance tourism will have and how Cooma-Monaro Shire Council can become more accessible to residents.

More than 100 business and industry representatives were in attendance to hear Cr Lynch encourage them to play their part in improving Cooma as a tourism and industry hub for the Snowy Mountains.

"We need people to become involved in driving change, a community effort to restore economic development in Cooma is needed," Cr Lynch said.

"The night was really important, I am excited for what it will produce.

"Council's vision is to have Cooma's population growing again, especially with people of a working age. We will become a major retail, commercial and educational centre."

President of the chamber Kathy Kelly and Cooma Tourism Manager Donna Smith also addressed the dinner, speaking of the importance tourism will play in Cooma's future.

Ms Smith presented the Destination Management Plan, a 12 month effort to identify how Cooma can become a more attractable place for people to stay. She says it is crucial to embrace Cooma and the Snowy Mountains as a draw- card destination.

"Tourism goes hand in hand with economic development," Ms Smith said.

"Three key areas the plan focuses on is optimising the town's online presence, increasing events and festivals and our destination branding.

"The plan also addresses the need of providing a sense of arrival to the 'capital' of the Snowy Mountains."

Two new websites will be launched to showcase the beauty of the town. An improved visit Cooma website will create opportunities for local businesses to market themselves to tourists.

The Visitors Centre will also undergo a change in their operations to cater for the 55,000 tourists they have come through their doors annually. It is expected their opening hours will become more flexible with the seasonal tourism activity.

"The Visitors Centre makes a significant contribution to economic development in town," Ms Smith said.

"To improve Cooma's branding there will be 'welcome' folders to ensure tourists are aware of the facilities offered in town."

Increasing the number of working age residents and people studying in Cooma was another priority highlighted in Cr Lynch's presentation.

"It's key employers tie in with our focus on education. People have to be aware of the services and opportunities available in town," Cr Lynch said.

Kathy Kelly echoed the sentiments of Cr Lynch and Ms Smith when she handed down the chamber's presentation, calling on the business sector to utilise their energy and enthusiasm.

She also spoke about the importance of filling the vacant premises in the CBD.

"To attract more visitors to stop in town we could have these premises leased on 30 day contracts to non-competitive businesses," Ms Kelly said.

"This is one of many ways the chamber will work more closely with council."

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