Longley proud of legacy

04/06/2008 - 22:00


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Gage Roads Brewing Company co-founder Peter Nolin has embarked on a radical career change to take over from John Longley as CEO of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.

FREO BUSINESS: John Langley is leaving the FCC.

Mr Longley has resigned from the position he has held since January 2000 to concentrate on the International Sailing Federation Sailing World Championships, to be held in Fremantle in December 2011.

The long-serving chief executive, who orchestrated the successful Fremantle First campaign, which has increased the port city's national and international profile, said he was leaving the chamber in good order.

Mr Longley told WA Business News membership numbers at the chamber had almost doubled, increasing to 500, during his tenure.

"I think the legacy is that this is a very proud organisation," Mr Longley said. "When I came here the chamber wasn't going through a particularly good period, the building was run down and we really didn't have much clout.

"We have managed to raise the chamber's profile so that it is a major player, certainly in the Fremantle business community, and in the wider business community as well.

"So the legacy is that I leave the chamber in good order."

Mr Longley said Fremantle's retail sector was in better shape than it was eight years ago and that the port city now had a surging fashion industry.

He said the strong relationship he helped build with Fremantle council assisted the chamber in gaining big wins, such as the controversial ING project and fighting the deregulation of shopping hours.

Mr Nolin, who will take over as CEO after a month-long handover, joins the chamber after his retirement in October as managing director of Gage Roads, which he managed from start-up through to its ASX listing.

"I know I have big shoes to fill, literally and metaphorically," Mr Nolin told WA Business News.

"I understand what small business in Fremantle is going through, what they need.

"It's not just about the businesses in Fremantle though, it's about all the businesses who want to do business in Fremantle.

"I think Fremantle is in a fantastic position now. The changes I've seen since I arrived here [from Washington DC] in 1994, the growth I've seen since America's Cup has been fantastic.

"Fremantle has become more cosmopolitan while retaining all of its heritage and maritime feel, and I want to be able to capitalise on that."

Mr Nolin, who is enrolled in the executive MBA program at the University of Western Australia, said he would encourage development in Fremantle.

"It's a working port city and I don't see how that or heritage conflicts at all with development and modernisation," he said.

"I think if I can extend the reach of the chamber in to more businesses and build on where John's taken the membership, through public advocacy we can keep Fremantle as the place to be."

Mr Longley began his working life as a graduate of Claremont Teachers' College, teaching mathematics and science.

As one of Australia's most accomplished international yachtsmen, he sailed on five America's Cup campaigns from 1974 to 1987, including as a crew member on Australia II during its historic win in 1983.

Mr Longley was appointed general manager of the unsuccessful America's Cup defence in 1984 and was later contracted by Bond Corporation to initiate the Endeavour Replica Project.

He said through advocating events such as the ISAF world championships and the West Coast Blues n' Roots Festival, the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce had evolved from a struggling entity to a formidable force in the business community.

"When you're worried about your existence then you can't do a good job because you're trying to shore up the organisation all the time," Mr Longley said.

"When the organisation is confident in who it is, confident in its financial backing, confident in its membership, then it doesn't have to worry about prudent and proper management.

"But in the end it's able to concentrate on the main game and for the reason that it exists, which is to look after the business environment in Fremantle, to look after the interests of people who want to do business in Fremantle.

"I think Fremantle is a better place than it was eight years ago. Even though the process is sometimes frustratingly slow, it is progress."


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