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16 January 2017

A Star News Group Publication


He’s all business By Casey Neill The Greater Dandenong business community had a bumper 2016 and made an impression with its passion, dedication and innovation. And with a hand in it all was James ‘Jamie’ Sturgess. The Journal has selected the Macpherson Kelley Lawyers’ Victorian managing director as its Person of the Year for 2016. He’d be the first to rightly point out that he wasn’t alone in his efforts to further business in the region, but the Journal felt the year marked a culmination of the work he started as a freshfaced lawyer in 1986. From the Premier Regional Business Awards (PRBA) finale to the Smart Manufacturing ’16 event, a Victorian Parliament showcase, The Doveton Project and SEBN events, he was a hard man to avoid in 2016. Mr Sturgess was inducted to the Greater Dandenong Hall of Fame at the 13 April gala dinner to celebrate the PRBA’s 25th and final year. SEBN manager Sandra George read a message on Jayco founder Gerry Ryan’s behalf, telling Jamie that the honour was well-deserved. “Your intelligence, drive and passionate promotion of Dandenong has made this great city a desirable place for businesses to operate and thrive,” she said. Mr Sturgess was studying at Monash University when the opportunity to work for Dandenongborn Macpherson and Kelley came up. “I played football for the Monash University Blues and one of the partners here also played,” he said. “He was snowed under with work and said to me one day: ‘Is there any chance you can come and work for us?’” He had to spend five weeks in his hometown of Sale before joining the firm. “Carting hay was my major earner for the year. I’d already committed to it,” he said. In 1990, Australia was going through the “recession it had to have” and Dandenong community leaders gathered. “I had no idea as I left that meeting that I would be given the pleasure of being integrally involved with the PRBA on an intimate basis for most of the next 25 years,” Mr Sturgess said. They’d come up with a vision to highlight businesses in the region through an awards program, which involved more than 6000 people over the years. At the PRBA finale Mr Sturgess launched The Doveton Project - a push to tackle unemployment in the suburb, which was more than three times




Jamie Sturgess in full flight at the final Premier Regional Business Awards. 152843 the national average at 12 per cent. “If some of the people in this room employed some of the people in that Doveton area ... ” he said. A SEBN industry breakfast on 3 May themed Tap into the Talent continued the push, with help from businessman, philanthropist and 2011 Australian of the Year Simon McKeon. At a Rotary business breakfast in Dandenong on 16 November, with Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams he reiterated the Doveton “call to arms” and revealed he’d practiced what he preached and employed three Doveton residents at M and K. Mr Sturgess was the inaugural chairman of the C4D, which hosted a regional manufactur-

ing showcase in Parliament House on 22 and 23 March and launched a three-year strategic agenda. C4D also held the Smart Manufacturing ’16 Dandenong and South East Melbourne on Show on 17 May, which included an expo, symposia and cocktail reception. In December Mr Sturgess spoke about new rules for the Federal Government’s $57 billion procurement fund, and the opportunity for Greater Dandenong manufacturers if the Australian-made focus progressed to effective policy. “The major manufacturing state in Australia is Victoria. Well over 50 per cent of manufacturing in this state is done in this region,” he said.

Picture: ROB CAREW Mr Sturgess has been a South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance (SEMMA) board member, and each year MCs the SEBN and South East Local Learning and Employment Network (SELLEN) Lunch with the Winners event, which exposes high school students to different career pathways. For the first time, the Journal put out a call for nominations on its Facebook page and received several suggestions. Honourable mentions go to retired Greater Dandenong councillor John Kelly, Avocare’s Trish Keilty, Olympian Heming Hu, the late Eric Mitchell, and Dandenong and District Historical Society.


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Dandenong Journal Star - 16th January 2017