Tania Witheford’s last major function in her capacity as Cambridge Chamber of Commerce CEO was the recent 2018 Waipa Networks Business Awards.
She had announced her impending departure several months ago but agreed to support the Chamber until the August 31 awards were over. That arrangement meant a spot of juggling on her part, as on July 9 Tania started in her new role – that of executive director of Community and Enterprise Leadership Foundation (CELF), a charitable organisation offering leadership development programmes to businesses and not-for-profit organisations.
The time was right to move on, she said, adding that she has derived great satisfaction from her four years there. “For me, it has really been about the community and businesses that I work for – seeing them succeed is the ultimate. But this is a good time for someone else to come in,” she said. “A set of fresh eyes will be good.”
Tania’s four years have seen Cambridge change greatly. She started just as the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway was about to come on stream; just how it would affect the town was unknown. Together with Steve Tritt and Dr Nick Marsh, she started Vision Cambridge, a group bent on creating a conversation about how Cambridge wanted to develop given the expressway’s impact.
“As it was, we saw an immediate calming of traffic during that initial December/January period. The big trucks were gone, there was a resurgence of bikes … residents and businesses reported back positively, and we’ve only seen it grow from there,” she said.
The constantly evolving business environment has seen over half of the businesses in the CBD change hands during the past 18 months or so, Tania said, and there were many opportunities ahead.
“Being Chamber CEO gave me a more holistic view of business,” she added. “You realise that while our focus is on Cambridge, the town is part of Waipa, and as such, is part of something bigger than itself. A big part of that is realising how we need to work together to get outcomes.”