Search on for new development boss
Wimmera Development Association will need a new leader with news executive director Ralph Kenyon will retire at the end of February.
Mr Kenyon, who has been in the role for three years, announced his decision at a board meeting last week.
He said he was keen to spend more time with family and friends and to ‘catch up with pressing jobs at his home on the Mornington Peninsula’.
Mr Kenyon said he left the role with a strong belief that the Wimmera and southern Mallee had an enormous amount of potential to push forward strongly through socio-economic development. “The region has a massive amount of positivity and commitment to working collaboratively,” he said.
“There is a lot of innovation and imagination and willingness in the region to go the extra yard.
“I think this is born from necessity – because of the improvements in the agricultural productivity and consolidation of farming properties – success has led to decline in population, especially in smaller towns.
“This presents challenges to look at other ways the region can diversify its economy.”
Mr Kenyon said he believed the largest area of potential growth in the region was in tourism.
“Whether it be agricultural, environmental or recreational tourism – all have enormous potential and represent something which we are still yet to capitalise on,” he said.
“The Silo Art Trail is a great example and that can only grow as stage two of the project comes on line,” he said.
Mr Kenyon, who previously had a leadership role with the Port of Hastings, said he had taken the job on because he saw an opportunity to share his skills and experiences in economic development.
“I have stretched myself and it has certainly been an exciting shift for me,” he said.
“But the fundamentals of economic development are essentially the same wherever you are – it’s only the priorities that differ.
“I’ve enjoyed getting a better understanding of life and the positive nature of the people in this region.”
Mr Kenyon has been involved in and seen significant regional development during his tenure.
He said Wimmera Development Association would continue to have a significant role in helping steer progress in the region.
“It is the engine room to help facilitate and progress ideas that come from the community,” he said.
“The organisation is in a strong financial position with support of five municipalities and there is potential for income streams from other sources during the next couple of years.
“Involvement with Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership will involve further development of WDA.
“The organisation has been around 27 years and is in a strong position to continue to move forward.”
Mr Kenyon predicted the region would continue to improve in agricultural production through a significant use of technology, research and telecommunications.
He added renewable energy and how the region exploited its potential would also play a major factor.