Sandy Haig, who as chief executive of Illawarra Innovative Industry Network (i3net) helped turn the manufacturing cluster from a small group to one of the region's most proactive industry bodies, was farewelled on Friday.
i3net deputy chairman Angelo Versace took time at the April industry breakfast meeting to thank Mrs Haig for her work.
"Sandy started at i3net in September 2008 and has since that time worked extremely hard with the board on initiatives such as these industry breakfasts and our manufacturing showcase. These initiatives have seen the network grow to its current size and activity.
"On behalf of both past and present boards of the i3net, thank you for your hard work and dedication to the network and the members."
Mrs Haig thanked everyone who helped her on what she described as an amazing journey.
She said it had been a privilege to work with i3net over 5½ years.
"Collaboration is the fundamental chain of i3net. Through this we have grown from 12 humble members to over 80. We have had over $500 million worth of projects introduced to the region."
When Mrs Haig started, her role was to facilitate activity.
She kept introducing new ways to go out and get business, such as member delegations to other regions.
"I think the manufacturing showcase was the tipping point," she said.
"We had a lot of support from state and federal government and business which made it happen. Then we rallied the delegates and got them to be interested. i3net members really supported the activity. I think that showed people the Illawarra has a great offering of industrial services."
There have been many other accomplishments, including the great relationships the network has built within industry and business.
But membership growing 700 per cent and the success Mrs Haig has had in bringing industry representatives from across Australia to the region have been hallmarks of her time.
"United we can do anything," she said.
"That has been my driver and I think that is your driver. Your belief in me and support has helped me conquer many personal hurdles and I would like to say thank you for your support."
Mrs Haig said she loved how the community got behind the network.
And she enjoyed seeing so many business people willing to work together to bid for major projects.
She believed that had helped to create and convey a real "can do" attitude for the region.
Mrs Haig felt i3net was at the level where she had achieved everything she could.
"I think it is time for a new phase and a new face," she said.
Mrs Haig starts at the University of Wollongong on Monday as industry development manager with Careers Central.