16 April 2018

McAra steps up to top job at Southland Chamber of Commerce

Newly appointed Southland Chamber of Commerce president Neil McAra says he has “some big boots to fill”.

Previously vice-president of the chamber, McAra has taken over the role from former three-term president Carla Forbes, who stepped down after the chamber’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

McAra, who is currently the managing principal in Invercargill for business advisors Crowe Horwath, said he was excited about the new role, but there was a big legacy to live up to.

“Carla has been fantastic with the work she has done ... her ability to bring people together and link them, she’s been really successful in creating connections [for the chamber].”

That inclusive philosophy was one McAra said he was keen to maintain.

“It’s not about one individual, I want to establish a culture of working together and getting the best out of people.”

McAra said regional development would remain a key focus for the chamber, although there were other avenues that could be more fully explored.

“I do think there is a space where the chamber could do more around innovation ... helping start up new businesses, and helping early stage businesses grow.

“It’s no secret we’ve been a champion of SoRDS [Southland Regional Development Strategy], there’s a great opportunity there and we want to see it continue.”

McAra said the chamber was keen to see Southland’s regional development agency put together as quickly as possibly, but acknowledged the democratic process would always take longer than in the business world.

New elected board members Garth Butson and Laura Todd said they excited to contribute their skills to the chamber board.

Butson said the networks gathered through his work as ACC’s relationship manager for the Southern and Queenstown region could be put to good use.

“I’ve been in business with ACC for the last 14 years, and have been involved in all aspects of health and safety.

“At the chamber, it’s another opportunity to use my networks and experience to do good things for Southland.”

Todd, who works both for the Invercargill Top 10 Holiday Park and Flight Centre in Invercargill, said she was keen to give a voice to Southland’s tourism sector.

“I was excited about the tourism aspect, because I don’t think there was anyone really representing tourism on the chamber board – it’s one of our biggest earners in Southland.”


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