Candidates quizzed on small business
WHAT steps do you think need to be taken to promote a healthy small business environment in the Valley?
I am a great believer in community, working together.
I would encourage small businesses within the Clarence to develop a resident ratepayer discount for locals who support local business by shopping locally; similar to a Coffee Club card for example.
Council's role could be in a co-ordinating role only.
We need a whole-of-Valley approach when it comes to the tourism industry.
The coastal communities should also be extolling the excellence of the hinterland and river attractions, and visa-versa.
Council could look at ways of supporting more gate-to-plate awareness within our community, and support 50km-meal events.
Encourage food outlets to have a co-ordinated food festival where all meals, regardless of where you dine, cost for example $10, A Clarence Tenner-Fest.
All of us as a community should make tourism our business and make tourists feel welcome.
Promote the Valley as a tourist destination through the CRTA which is funded by Council to do exactly that, and also by continued support of festivals and large events across the Valley which bring in the tourist dollars.
Increase population by way of land release, which is already happening with approvals at Junction Hill, Clarenza, Gulmarrad and West Yamba.
Be more user-friendly in the way we deal with small business.
Council has a buy-local policy and this also applies to our tenders where there is a local weighting in tenders, which is obviously supporting local business.
The attraction of large employers will boost the local economy, more people employed equals more money to spend in local small business.
Essentially I see council's role as "getting the people to town" and doing our bit to maintain a pleasant and welcoming main shopping district in all of the Clarence Valley towns.
Every rural, town and industrial business needs a better council attitude. It's hardly capable of proper business decisions itself.
Council seriously needs a new culture before promoting business health to others.
Council conduct in the Gallery lease - dropping more than $17,000 per year and killing off a vibrant family business, and the Maclean car park sale - dropping half-a-million dollars cold, are just two of the many recent council examples of poor attitude to business.
My priority will be to first stop the rot. To stop the rot will need quality control measures in council processing and decision-making.
Consistency, quality control and adherence to council policy are glaringly deficient at present.
Even the slightest changes to footpath-use policy, and cost, have the capacity to create a vibrant Valley to help small business.
Removal of council anti-business culture will be a constant pursuit for me, if elected.
Talk to business, ask them what they need.
Don't assume chambers of commerce represent all businesses in the Valley.
Facilitate the establishment of a Clarence Valley Regional Economic Development Partnership that is inclusive of the whole Valley.
Abolish the DMU charge.
List and promote all Clarence Valley-based businesses on CVC website.
Increase the Pensioner Rebate on rates, pegging future increases to the CPI; this will lift the spending capacity of this sector.
Urgently revise council's Valley Vision 2020, compiled in 2008 - before the massive job losses of the past two years and the threat of CSG mining.
Urgently develop a new economic development plan.
Council's current plan ran for three to five years and was written in 2006.
It's out of date and there appears to be no reports available on the CVC site that evaluate the outcomes achieved under that plan.
Joy de Roos
The Council needs to ensure that it does not put barriers in the way of the expansion of small businesses or in the establishment of new ones.
This includes all Development Applications being processed with optimum efficiency and a process for any delayed DA approvals to be independently reviewed.
There is also a need to ensure that the various community committees which have a stake in any development meet to consider each DA in a timely fashion.
The applicant(s) need to be kept informed of the progress of any application and be able to provide further information as the DA progresses.
This will ensure that the applicant is ready to act on the success granting of any DA.
There is a trend towards IT people looking for lifestyle while being able to work from home.
Council needs to foster this, as IT will be a valuable employment base into the future.
This is also a way to encourage young people to return to the area after they have obtained their initial qualifications.
The Council along with the various chambers of commerce also needs to develop a strategy to promote a buy-local campaign across the whole Valley, which spells out the advantages to the community of buying as much as possible from local suppliers.
Such a campaign needs to be ongoing and updated on a regular basis.
My thoughts are as follows:
Transport - to get people into the CBD, good parking for convenient access to shops.
Infrastructure - such as clean well-maintained public toilets conveniently situated within the CBD, clean footpaths and well- maintained roads.
Good parking conveniently situated to/within the CBD, good signage to attract people to town.
Environment - clean, tidy, safe, good parkland, trees and shrubs as appropriate, adequate public seating in the CBD, town entrances to be kept tidy and clean.
Adequate commercial land correctly situated and zoned.
Shop/business variety, in Maclean there are plenty of cafes and real estate offices.
A lot of improvement needed to achieve the above.
Toilets for example in Maclean receive plenty of public criticism, not good. Obviously needed replacing long back.
Councillors' last resolution could mean replacement is a long way off yet.
Also riverbank needs clean up for views etc.
I am a founding committee member of Clarence Business Advisory Service.
We are a small group of business people working voluntarily in the Valley to increase and broaden the depth of services currently being delivered to small businesses throughout the Valley.
Our plan for growth of services being delivered to local businesses will build on a small-business program of activities and further develop the trust of local business operators through education, mentoring and business counselling.
The outcome of this plan is to build more robust and sustainable businesses.
I will be looking to establish a business unit/department within Council that has a grass-roots focus, helping business already here for starters.
Businesses are closing at a fast rate and Council needs to bend over backwards to help.
This business unit would cover areas like collating a local business database and monitoring that Council shops locally, a direct link for business to go to Council for advice on processing DAs or access to any available grants.
This is only some of what this department could achieve.
Ninety-five per cent of business is small business, so a fair percentage of people are employed in small business, so it is important that Council steps in and leads the way in promoting small business.
There needs to be better communication between Council and small business.
This could be achieved by a small business liaison unit within the Economic Development Unit of Council.
This could act as a one-stop shop, and work closely with the local chambers of commerce, acting as advisors to Council.
Councillors must develop proactive policies to support small business and this must be imparted to and reflected by a "can do" approach by staff, whose role should be to support rather than state what cannot be done.
This must be extended to a policy of less red tape.
Council must have a purchasing policy that supports local business.
This can be promoted by a "shop local" program that is emphasised in all council newsletters.
There must be consistency with policies directed towards small business development.
Small business (and big business) are under great pressure at this time.
There are a number of national and international factors at play along with the coming of age of internet trading.
Should I be re-elected on September 8 I will ask the Council to carry out a review of the Clarence Economic Plan.
I will also formulate a working party made up of Clarence Valley business people and community to provide advice to Council on business-related matters.
I also offer my congratulations to all the nominees in the Clarence Valley Business awards. The winners will be announced on Saturday night.
Council needs to improve signage to get highway traffic into our communities.
Correspondence should always be answered promptly and systems put in place to monitor this.
We need to look more closely at balancing the rights for access along footpaths and; the ability to enable stallholders to display wares in a market type style outside their shops on a more regular basis and; the ability for coffee shops in Maclean etc to have tables and chairs on the footpath.
Council annual fees and charges need to be scrutinised more. Each year rates are debated for hours, however fees and charges are almost just "rubber stamped".
Water and sewerage charges have increased well above the rate- pegging limit for years and are forecast to do so for more years to come.
Fees for sandwich boards have increased by over 38% in six years.
I believe promoting a "shop local" campaign is the first step to supporting local businesses.
As a business owner, quite often I have customers ask for prices on products and then tell me that they can get it done more cheaply online or out of town.
For a number reasons, online or out of town price can often be substantially cheaper.
An educational campaign should be put in place to help the general public better understand how shopping locally keeps money circulating in the Clarence Valley economy.
We also need to identify other benefits that may be provided to existing businesses that are equivalent, or "in kind" to the rates holiday initiative proposed for bringing new businesses to the area.
In listening to the concerns of local business owners, I would also support streamlining communication between businesses and council officers about issues they may have.
We need to review Council's processes, fee structures and payment methods to identify any opportunities to make interactions more productive, efficient and user-friendly.
Councillors need to be educated in the ways of other towns and how they promote and assist small business.
CVC needs to better promote our special attributes to encourage the outside dollar.
Councils Economic Development Unit could possibly do more in this area.
While promoting and building tourism is all very well, supporting and recognising the backbones of the Valley, like farming and fishing, is vital.
Encouraging small business to have an online presence and utilise digital technology is important, therefore lobbying for high-speed broadband and good coverage for all the Valley would be something the Council could support.
We still have mobile phone black spots.
As I work in the industry of assisting and mentoring small business start-ups, I believe that a reduction in business rates would certainly assist those who would need to rent a premise or purchase premises to work from (as opposed to home- based).
Such an incentive would go a long way to help with their start-up costs and in supporting them to long-term sustainability.
I also think that a comprehensive survey be undertaken with ratepayers to review their shopping trends; such as why do they shop out of the Clarence Valley, what services and shops are we lacking?
This would capture a cross-section of the ratepayers' views and paint a good picture of what the Council and the various Chambers of Commerce need to address.
A council-sponsored website listing all businesses and services in the Clarence Valley would be another good initiative.
There are still some businesses and services that do not have websites or a web presence.
It would be good to see that every business in the entire Valley would be listed in this directory.
The various chambers have their members listed on their websites, but this is always limited to chamber members.
Keeping the highway further from the Clarence River is a huge plus for the Valley's waterway along the Grafton-Maclean section.
In my view this will promote a better atmosphere for business and waterway use.
It will allow those who reside along the road noise reduction, less intense traffic and a safer environment.
These positives will enhance the area and assist to promote tourists to stop and settle.
It was raised by Ursula Tunks that a transport hub or depot be looked at for Maclean, where the highway meets. I think this is a good idea, creating further business opportunities .
Council and the chambers of commerce should be looking at a series of permanent promotional billboards to attract business, settlement and tourism .
I am a member of a focus group who, earlier this year, conceived a project to promote the Clarence Valley as the "wedding capital" of the eastern seaboard.
We have everything here, both in infrastructure and expertise - beautiful beaches, venues, event planners, celebrants, accommodation, photographers, florists, decorators, caterers, yurt hire, etc. - and we can no doubt offer more favourable prices than super-trendy places such a Byron Bay.
Just think of all the small businesses that would be positively impacted if this goal could be achieved.
I also don't think we have capitalised on Yamba being voted "Best Town in Australia" back in March 2009.
Fortunately, it hasn't been done since so Yamba can still claim that honour - and we need to milk it for all it is worth.
By attracting more tourists to the Valley, particularly grey nomads who will come out of the peak holiday seasons, we can really generate economic growth and stability, which will benefit all small businesses in the long run.
As the majority of businesses in the Valley are small, I think that the business environment is quite good at present.
I will be attending the Clarence Business Enterprise Advice Service and Grafton Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast next week and I will be seeking comments from local businesses on what they require.
As I am a small business person, I do understand the issues, particularly those of self-employed workers.
I agree with the sentiments of other candidates in that Council should lead the way by employing local contractors and purchasing goods locally wherever possible.
Support should be given to all areas of the Valley, including the small villages and outlying areas.