The champion of our precinct commended

By Jack Hayes

Fifty of Melbourne’s oldest and most loved small businesses will be celebrated this month in a ceremony with Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

Included on this year’s Lord Mayor’s Commendations list, is Southbank’s own Yarra River Business Association, and although it will be officially recognised for more than 10 years of services, the Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) has fostered a thriving business precinct since 1999.

At the helm since its inception more than 22 years ago is YRBA executive officer, Tim Bracher, a man with a relentless passion for our riverside precinct and unparalleled ability to build cohesion within it.

Mr Bracher said there had been two outstanding features of the YRBA’s success over the years which he was most proud of.

First, the delivery of a consistent and quality board servicing its members, and second, to the benefit of all, the creation of a fully integrated, world-class tourism and hospitality precinct.

“We’ve had 10 years served by nearly all our board members who have devoted countless hours to the betterment of the business community, often at the expense of their own business,” Mr Bracher said.

“It is a common misconception that our board members are there to further their own business, however, the discussions that are had are always to better the precinct as a whole.”

“Prior to 2010 the precinct was a series of visitor nodes where people would visit such as Southbank, Crown, Southgate, or Jeff’s Shed. We’ve done a world of work bridging along businesses to project a more integrated precinct.”

According to Mr Bracher, recognition in this year’s Lord Mayor’s Commendation has come as welcomed news for a precinct brought to its knees by the pandemic.

Along with an independent survey to its members which saw resounding acknowledgement that the precinct would be in deficit if they didn’t have a business association like the YRBA, Mr Bracher and his board have the confidence to move forward with plans for a post-pandemic era.

He said if there had been any silver lining to come out of the pandemic, it had been the shift from his members to move focus to their more immediate market which would help underpin their businesses and act as an insurance policy going forward, if and when this happened again.

“We helped facilitate this with campaigns like what we have run in Southbank News to get our businesses to recognise the residents of 3006 as an underpinning market for them going forward,” Mr Bracher said.

“As a precinct as highly reliant on the tourism trade, to have ignored the 25,000 people who sit right on their doorstep has been an obvious hurdle that we have had to overcome.”

“With the way the residential community have supported our businesses over the past 12 months helped to cement a relationship that will endure when life returns to normal.”

The Lord Mayor’s Commendations have been celebrating small businesses and their stories since 2005.

“It’s never been more important to honour small businesses and highlight how much they mean to our city,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Melbourne’s small businesses have endured the toughest trading conditions in decades, and we want to recognise and support them as the city recovers.”

“Whether it’s a butcher or a book store, small businesses are the lifeblood of our city. These awards recognise and celebrate businesses that have stood the test of time.”

“Anyone who has run a small business knows it’s a tough role, so it’s important we congratulate and honour the commitment of some of our longest-serving proprietors.”

The commendations program shines a spotlight on small business owners who have serviced the city for 10 or more years. More than 620 small businesses have received commendations since the program began in 2005.

All going well, the Lord Mayor Sally Capp will present the Commendation to the YRBA and the remainder of this year’s recipients during a ceremony at Melbourne Town Hall on Thursday, August 12.

With the precinct defining public infrastructure project “Greenline” on the horizon, Mr Bracher is eager to work with all stakeholders to further the precinct’s reputation as one of the world’s best tourism destinations.

“We want to work very closely with the council on the vision for Greenline and getting the north bank of the river developed as a visitor friendly interface between the river and the CBD,” he said.

“We want to see the council work with the various government departments and agencies to share its vision and overcome the dreadful fragmentation that is still the biggest hurdle in seeing any change along the river corridor.”

The YRBA’s quarterly luncheon will return in October after successive lockdowns curtailed plans for the first two events.

The luncheon, which will feature Lord Mayor Sally Capp, has now been re-confirmed for Friday, October 1 at 12pm, Belgian Beer Cafe, Southbank •

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