Businesses doing it tough
A SURVEY of 20 Grafton businesses shows a massive trade difference between Prince Street and Shoppingworld, with the new complex out-performing the traditional business strip in late May trade.
The results of the survey, are indicators that Grafton, the Clarence Valley’s biggest business centre, is not immune from global figures, showing a downward trend in retail sales.
While just under a third of businesses indicated buoyant trade, about 70 per cent of all businesses surveyed indicated business was average or poor.
A third of businesses said trade in May was lower than May 2009.
While the retail sector may be hurting locally, and nationally, the construction and development sector is going great guns according to Clarence Valley Council’s deputy general manager environment and economic services Des Schroder.
Mr Schroder pointed to 400 blocks of land released across the valley in the past 12 months, a further 300 blocks at Clarenza to be released in the near future and the 20-year plan of 7000 additional housing blocks as and indication.
This, he said, would eventually translate into 17,500 extra people living in the valley.
He said council had sold 21 of its 32 blocks at the Bailey’s Estate, Junction Hill before the streets and sewerage were completed.
“And South Hill is still going very well,” he said.
Mr Schroder said business strength in Grafton would be boosted by developments at Clarenza (1000 lots on the eastern side of the Pacific Highway, South Grafton), Junction Hill (another 1000 sites between established Junction Hill and the Baileys Estate), Gulmarrad (potentially 800 lots) and Lawrence.
“Council has out-performed every other council around us from a planning point of view... construction is in no slump or recession,” he said.
“We’re getting migration to the valley of between 500 and 600 new people every year whereas adjoining councils like Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Ballina have lots of land restrictions.
“By having lots of land available, it helps keep land prices low and affordable for people.”
He said Council had about 700 hectares of industrial land earmarked for development with the Department of Planning and some 150 hectares already approved.
“We’ve been directly involved in bringing three or four investors to the area,” Mr Schroder said, quoting Pearson’s Transport, two medium-sized timber mills and several smaller mills.
Mr Schroder said other strategies for economic development in the area included the Council’s comprehensive website which featured “relocation kits” for potential migrants and the position of Economic Development Officer (now occupied by Elizabeth Fairweather in an acting capacity) which helped promote the area to outside businesses.
Other positives for the valley, he said, included:
• a massive $130 million upgrade to sewerage infrastructure throughout the valley;
• Skinner Street redevelopment in South Grafton.
• a $550,000 Tourism Quality Grant for works on boating infrastructure on the Clarence River.
• Fisher Park, Grafton sporting complex upgrade worth $2.5 million.
• Wherrett Park, Maclean upgrade $3 million.
• Grafton Base Hospital upgrade $20 million.
Mr Schroder said council had not been responsible for all of the above, but had a considerable hand in much of it.
He said many councils went back to their traditional “roads and rubbish” mainstays when the going got tough, but he said such action could be self-defeating because opportunities for development could be missed.
“We can’t do much on a short-term basis for business except offering a fast turnover of DAs, and we run at a 29-day average,” he said.