It's hoped fresh faces and renewed enthusiasm will bring positive
The Bega Chamber of Commerce held its AGM on Wednesday night, with John Watkin voted in as president and Robert Hayson vice-president.
New faces signing on to the executive included John Stylianou from Tarra Motors and Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care CEO Matt Sierp.
They join Mal Barnes, Tim Whittaker, Tim Shinnick and Steven Millott as the representatives for Bega businesses.
"There's new energy, fresh ideas - they've got a lot of enthusiasm and we're keen to reinvigorate the chamber as an important representative body in town," Mr Watkin said.
It won't be without its challenges, with the council currently undertaking consultation on commercial land use strategies, and very limited space and opportunities to expand on existing commercial offerings.
"We're happy to be part of that process and will part of those meetings with council," Mr Watkin said of the commercial land use strategy.
"If they're serious about listening to what the community and local business wants and needs, then that's a good thing.
"We should always be refreshing ideas for the future.
"But one of our main frustrations is the lack of available land. We see businesses who don't get started, or go elsewhere because there is no available land here, no greenfields sites.
"Our view is build it and they will come, because at the moment there are very limited options for them."
To make land available isn't just on council's shoulders, with existing commercial operators and landowners needing to look at the bigger picture as well, Mr Watkin said.
"It needs to be collaborative - council can't do it alone. In saying that though, they need to be far more active and working with owners of that land to show the benefits of opening up more commercial space.
"That might mean relaxing headworks charges and other development startup costs, knowing they will be collecting rates on that property for years to come.
"Other councils around Australia are doing just that and we believe it's something that needs to be looked at."
Shorter term, the chamber is working on a new website to keep both members and the general public informed of their efforts and coming events. They are also in ongoing discussions about beautification of Bega's main street, an issue raised often Mr Watkin said.
He also said that although there has been some negativity about the state of retain in Merimbula, there was still "an air of positivity" in Bega.
"Bega is chugging along well - we'd always want it to be better," he added with a chuckle, "but there's an air of positivity about the way it's going.
"There aren't too many empty shops in Bega, and it's not always a bad thing to have a few empty shops anyway.
"It shows there are opportunities for businesses to come in and there's always a bit of shuffling around of existing businesses - as long as it's not half the street standing empty."