Search on for new de­vel­op­ment boss

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.

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