Working in Tasmania stories
A Chairman reflects
With a steady hand on the tiller, Michael Grainger has guided Tasmania’s brand through one of its most transformative eras.
As chairman of Brand Tasmania, he has watched our island evolve from a “virtual backwater” to the brand powerhouse that it is today.
Grainger has also been instrumental in transitioning the organisation into its exciting new chapter as a ‘turbo-charged’ statutory authority, which is expected to come into effect tomorrow.
“Fifteen years ago if you were asked where you were from, especially when you were overseas, most people would say ‘I’m Australian’, and then mutter under their breaths that they were from Tasmania,” he reflects.
“However, these days people proudly say they are Tasmanian.
“In fact, we now have the situation where the mainland states are really following what we do, and how we do it.
“And that is something we should all be very proud of.”
After nine years in the top job, Grainger says it is now the perfect time to step down.
He is a strong believer in board renewal, and always planned that a new set of hands should take the reins as the inaugural Brand Tasmania authority Chair.
Entrepreneur, Nick Haddow, the founder and Managing Director of Bruny Island Cheese & Beer Co, will take up the mantle.
“Nick runs a very successful business that is heavily reliant on brand, and heavily reliant on the state of Tasmania, and I think he will bring that experience to the Chairman’s role, and that will be great.”
Grainger is one of Tasmania’s top businessmen.
His company, Liferaft Systems Australia, exports marine evacuation systems across the globe, and he has successfully combined this rapidly expanding business with his role as Brand Tasmania Chairman, which he calls a “privilege” and team effort.
“At the end of the day the chairman conducts the orchestra, he doesn’t play the instruments,” Grainger explains.
“And people need to understand that the level of talent that we had around the board table in terms of the Brand Tasmania Council was unsurpassed.
“We had the leaders of industry in the various sectors giving their time freely to promote the state. And that is almost unheard of in any other board.”
It was a pivotal time in Tasmania’s brand evolution when Grainger stepped into the top job in 2010.
He became Chairman the year before MONA opened, suddenly plunging Tasmania into the international spotlight.
While there is no doubt about the enormity of the so-called MONA effect on Tasmania’s brand recognition, Grainger also point outs many other industries such as: manufacturers; wine and whisky producers; purveyors of artisan food; tourism operators; niche primary producers; and the education sector ranging from pre-tertiary, to TAFE, to University, who were also championing Tasmania with great success.
Our exporters, led by Incat whose revolutionary fast ferries are in demand across the globe, also played a leading role in changing perceptions.
“You roll all that into one, and it just provides an incredibly high level of recognition for the state. We witnessed an amazing transformation over this time,” Grainger reflects.
“When I first joined the Brand Tasmania Council, the state was considered a ‘basket case’ to some extent, and certainly our brand was not highly recognised.
“Today we are known and envied not only across Australia but across the world, and we can all be very proud of the point we have reached now."
This hasn’t happened overnight, and it hasn’t happened in a vacuum.
“A lot of industries and individuals, many of those our brand partners, have spent a lot of time working very hard to not only promote themselves, but indirectly promote the brand of Tasmania at the same time,” Grainger explains.
“However, the kudos for all of this really needs to go to Robert [Heazlewood].
“He has been the driving force behind this whole thing, working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that things happen properly for all the right reasons.”
Reflecting over his time with Brand Tasmania, Grainger says there are many highlights that stand out.
He points to the Ambassador Program where international chef, Tetsuya Wakuda, and media identities Ray Martin and David Brill, became passionate Tasmanian advocates, or the visiting journalists initiative.
“But, I think the fact that we got the Brand Tasmania Council to the stage where we could work with the Government to transform it to a statutory authority is probably the biggest thing that we have ever done.
“This will give Brand Tasmania the funding, and the scope, to be able to take the organisation up to another level.
“And if that happens, we have done our job.”
Grainger may be stepping down as chairman, but he won’t be stepping down as a passionate champion of our unique island home.
“I will continue to promote the Tasmanian brand every day of the week both in Australia and internationally,” Grainger explains.
“So personally, nothing will really change for me, except that I won’t be sitting at the head of the table every two months!”
Image courtesy Alastair Bett
27 March 2019, Partner Connections