FLA General Manager Bruce McConnel gets stuck into the role

Friday, 01 September 2017

FLA General Manager Bruce McConnel gets stuck into the role

Its official! I’ve now commenced the new role as General Manager of Food Leaders Australia (FLA) and have hit the ground running.  I certainly felt the excitement around the role, the broader TSBE organisation and the region as a whole when I walked into the office on August 28.

This feeling is supported by the conversations I’ve had to date with the members who are clear advocates of what we do and credit must be given to TSBE Executive Chairman Shane Charles, my predecessor Dr Ben Lyons, and the entire TSBE team for the work they have done in fostering these partnerships.

Now two weeks into the role, I wanted to share with you my initial thoughts and what I see happening with the region. Toowoomba and the surrounding regions are in a unique and envied position where public and private enterprises work together on projects for the benefit of our people, businesses and communities.  The Wellcamp airport, second range crossing and upcoming Inland Rail are examples of the work being done to link Toowoomba and surrounding regions to the world.  Like never before, our regional centre has the opportunity to grow itself into a major inland port and take, not only our own, but Australia’s agricultural products to the world.

This is all occurring at a time when farmer’s optimism, and willingness to look at new opportunities is at all-time highs. Recent gains in grain prices, continuing high cattle prices and a strong season for our local horticulture producers are seeing many producers keen to continue expand their operations and look to new markets. 

The most exciting aspect of this change is it no longer just occurs in the traditional means of buying more land and increasing production.  We’re now seeing large investment in innovation, accelerated on the back of FLAs annual 400m AgTech Investment Forum earlier this year and supported heavily by the work USQ and other research and industry bodies within the region. 

Producers are also looking at new avenues of marketing as well as networking with likeminded businesses with the view to capture any new opportunities.  This growth is then leading to other supply chain participants looking to invest heavily within our region, be it beef and fresh milk processing facilities right through to international airlines looking to our region to start regular services.

FLA is perfectly placed to assist these participants in gaining new introductions, learning what is occurring in the region and providing a strong voice for our food and fibre industries. These are all aspects of the role I’m keen to sink my teeth into. 

Before stepping in as FLA GM, I spent the last 17 years with both the National Australia Bank and Commonwealth bank in various agribusiness finance roles, most recently as the Regional Manager for South West Queensland for the Commbank’s Regional and Agribusiness team.  This background has seen me work with many ag related businesses to grow their wealth, protect the risks and capitalise on new opportunities as they arise - all tasks I wish to continue in the new role.  Behind the scenes I’ve worked closely with agricultural shows to drive the involvement of the next generation of ag industry participants and I will always be looking for ways to grow the next generation’s involvement.

Finally, if you’re keen to come and meet me, we’ve got Meat Ups each month in Toowoomba at Wellcamp airport, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and Clearspan. I look forward to seeing you there.

*Article appeared in The Rural Weekly on September 8*

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