“Marion Charlton understands the importance of first impressions better than most.

She is, after all, in charge of the gateway to the city in her role as Chief Operating Officer at Gold Coast Airport. But her passion for the city is more than skin deep.

Charlton, who has worked around the world and Australia’s southern capitals, has settled with her family on the Gold Coast and hopes her children will make the choice to live and work here when they grow up.

“I think when you’re making a decision about where you will live and work, you often do it through the prism of what’s best for your family,” says Charlton.

“Here we have some of the best schools, three of the best universities and with all the development and opportunity that’s coming, I’ve got a hope my kids will stay here on the Gold Coast when they choose to have their own careers and families.”

Charlton says the energy and drive in the Gold Coast’s business community makes it an exciting place to run an organisation.

“There’s a real can-do spirit here. Everyone wants the city to be great, and as Gold Coasters, we take it very personally and I think that’s amazing,” she says.

“Business leaders are really accessible, it’s not hard to talk to people like the Mayor, decision makers or local and federal members.

“It makes it easier to get things done – it’s not hard to pick up the phone here like it can be in a bigger city.”

And getting things done she is.

Gold Coast Airport is in the throes of a $300 million redevelopment, Project LIFT (Let’s Invest for Tomorrow), which will be delivered between now and 2019.

A range of crucial upgrades, including expansion of the apron capacity and introduction of self check-in services, will be delivered in time for the influx of visitors heading our way during the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Charlton knows the impact of such an event, having worked at the Atlanta and Sydney airports during the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, and in Glasgow during the last Commonwealth Games.

“But it’s important we see the Commonwealth Games as the wedding, not the marriage,” she says.

“A lot of infrastructure and energy is going into the Games, so the challenge for the Gold Coast is to capture that and use it to drive the city forward.

“Our development does just that – it goes way beyond the Games. We’re looking forward to and planning for the event, but it’s certainly not the end piece for us.”

Charlton is one of five panelists at this year’s City Leaders Forum, hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast.

She will be joined by Mark Peters (CEO of Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation), Bob East (CEO of ASX-listed Mantra Group), Peta Fielding (CEO of Burleigh Brewing) and Professor Ian O’Connor (Vice Chancellor of Griffith University).

Charlton says it is an excellent platform for business leaders to share experiences and impart knowledge to the people who will lead the city in the future.

“But more importantly it’s an opportunity for young professionals to play a role in shaping the city,” she says.

“Working together is so important – as generations we need to combine our efforts, and this is a fantastic platform for that.”

To hear more from Charlton, register now for the City Leaders Forum 2016.”