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Alison Fitzgerald - Executive Director
“I love working for YREC because every day is so different. When I came on board, I knew we needed to refocus on the incubation model. And I think we’ve understood and responded to what that means in a community such as Warburton. I’m proud of what has been achieved here.”
Alison Fitzgerald, the dynamic Executive Director of YREC since 2014, brings decades of corporate and government experience in Economic Development and business management to her role.
“The funny thing is I nearly became a tenant of YREC myself many years ago. After returning from a working stint in Hong Kong I was developing a handmade jewellery business and I had stockists both in Australia and Hong Kong. I visited YREC one day and could see the potential of the premises, but it just didn’t work for me at the time.”
An encounter on the main street of Warburton with board member Jeff Gill some weeks later proved to be a turning point, not only for Alison but for YREC as well. “Jeff told me they were recruiting a new Executive Officer and they had many plans for starting over, and he said I was perfect for the role,” says Alison. “I accepted the challenge of transforming YREC from run down to thriving. It definitely needed some TLC. Luckily I relish a challenge!”
“When I started, there was less than 50% occupancy, and this has now grown to 100% occupancy. More importantly the type of tenant has changed to ‘new and developing businesses’, thus providing an important resource for the local community and beyond.” Alison had made great progress ‘untangling the mess’ and establishing a professional management approach when another challenge emerged. “The buildings, an ex-Board of Works depot owned by the State Government was put on the excess stock list.” A person who sees opportunity in the hardest of circumstances, Alison spearheaded a campaign to purchase the premises and since 2021 YREC has owned the site. This has enabled plans for future investment in an owned asset and is a significant achievement.
Alison’s multidimensional role consists of customer service, stakeholder relationships, governance and finance, managing the board of directors, managing maintenance and future proofing the business with solid strategic planning. “I enjoy the challenge of having ideas and making things happen. There are so many opportunities for growth.”
“I live in Warburton and I work in Warburton. I feel I am a conduit for quality introductions. When I meet someone, I immediately think ‘you need to talk to a tenant of mine’. This is the best way I can support our businesses to broaden their horizons. I can introduce them to resources and people they would otherwise not meet.”
Alison has many plans for YREC and there are many improvements brought about in the last few years from planting out gardens and tidying up exteriors to redoing the kitchen. And there are many plans in place for future development. “We are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. The ongoing nature of working from home has created new opportunities in coworking and flexi spaces and I believe in the idea of a virtual membership for YREC. It's impressive that we can run a big business from a small town and the online world has really opened up many opportunities for our tenants, so YREC becomes a base to expand into new markets.”
“YREC serves as an important link in the local community and because of this I have become involved in many other groups including Warburton Advancement League (WAL) and the Warburton Valley Community Economic Development Association (CEDA). I am also a recently appointed member of the national Flexible Workspace Australia (FWA) board. This is a challenging role that further extends my access to people and resources.”
“It's really important to understand what people need and at what stage they are in their journey of business growth. To support them through this journey and watch them grow both professionally and personally is extremely rewarding and is my learning and true success”.