Meet The Locals: Toowoomba’s Mover & Shaker Greg Johnson
Toowoomba resident Greg Johnson has had an incredibly impressive career working as a Chief Executive Officer for major organisations and the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce.
While officially “retired”, Greg continues to make a massive contribution to Toowoomba through his never-ending community work and writing his weekly column for The Chronicle.
I spoke to him about how he felt making The Chronicle’s Most Influential List and how this country boy from Moree, New South Wales, climbed to the top of the business world.
So, Greg, what is it like to be the 92nd most influential person in Toowoomba?
It was a complete surprise as there was no consultation. The people at The Chronicle obviously sat down as a team and attempted to identify the hundred most influential people. I don’t think that I deserve to be there, but it was a great honour. A week after the list was released, my wife, Jan, was able to buy a polo shirt with the number 92 on it, so I wear it proudly!
How did you and Jan find yourselves living in Toowoomba?
We lived in Canberra for 25 years, then decided to move to Hawthorn in Brisbane in 1995. My wife, Jan, is from Toowoomba, although she was born in Goondiwindi. I always joke that at three months of age, she crawled from Goondiwindi to Toowoomba! As Jan’s family still lived in Toowoomba, we decided to move here to be closer to her family, around twenty years ago.
You’ve had an illustrious career in business. Can you give us a rundown?
As a young country boy, I started my career working in a bank. Along the way, I studied accounting at the University of Canberra, followed by some serious jobs in Canberra such as working for Brendon Nelson at The Australian Medical Association. Then I ran Canberra Milk, which at the time was grandly named The Milk Authority of the Australian Capital Territory. It was a great job as we sponsored the Canberra Raiders. Then Jan and I moved to Queensland and I was the State Manager for the Australian Federation of Travel Agents before becoming the CEO of the Optometrist Association for 12 years, which was the highlight of my career.
How did you become the CEO of the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce?
Well, I thought I’d retired but then a friend of Jan’s told her that there needed to be a concerted effort to get the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce thriving again. I decided to accept the challenge and worked building the organisation for four years. It was a 120-year-old institution that was on the brink of collapse through lack of funding. I turned it into a more sustainable organisation and was able to get several hundred thousand dollars worth of grants from the Federal Government. We got a brand new office in the CBD and ran hundreds of seminars across the region. We were fortunate to get the Premier, ministers and shadow ministers to all speak at our event ‘Business at Breakfast’ to an enthralled audience of 200 local business people.
You’re still actively involved in many community organisations?
I work with The Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland on the marketing, social media, media releases and media conferences for Toowoomba Royal Show. We’re lucky to have really good supporting media here. Jan is on the committee and they were struggling with exposure and sponsorship, so she asked me to volunteer. No, she made me volunteer! Just kidding! I enjoy making something a success, whether that in the commercial world or for the community.
And you still manage to find the time to pump out a weekly column for The Chronicle every Thursday!
I love it! It’s very time-consuming in a most pleasant way. I write 450 words each week. Which is either my musings about life, or an interview with an individual or business. Last week, I happened across the Toowoomba Peanut Processing Company. I thought, well, that’s interesting, so I decided to find out more. They process a tonne of peanuts every day, 365 times a year, which they sell to Woolworths and Coles. There’s always something or someone interesting in Toowoomba to talk to.
Like you are too, Greg. Thanks for your time.
Photo credit: Greg Johnson’s Facebook page