Engaging with south west regional Victoria’s small business community
L–R: Working lunch with Moyne Shire Council’s Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Committee, Commissioner Lynda McAlary-Smith onsite at Bamstone
In my recent visit to Victoria’s south west, I had the chance to hear incredible stories of resilience, strength and entrepreneurship. I also learnt more about the pressing issues that local small business people are coming up against and talked about solutions.
I met with business owners and small business network members, and staff from local councils, Commerce Moyne and Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria West – all of whom are doing great work to build up their local business communities.
Areas of discussion included:
- the export market:
- how Port Fairy bluestone manufacturer Bamstone has tapped into this
- ways Global Victoria can help in exploring strategic approaches and understanding the nuances in the countries where they work
- maximising your customer base: Warrnambool’s Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs promoting the remedial value of their offering to build a solid local clientele while still benefitting from the visitor economy
- making the move to digital: the challenges of trying to do this during the pandemic when your offering is very much experiential
- staffing pressures:
- LGAs working together to try to align workers arranged via the Designated Area Migration Agreement with the skilled labour needs of the region
- the difficulty of reopening your doors when you’re struggling to staff a family-owned business that needs a responsive and service-driven team
- how Jobs Victoria can help
- the need for affordable housing for staff:
- Moyne Shire Council considering different options to assist with unlocking more accommodation for short term workers
- the idea of offering accommodation with a job
- Warrnambool City Council seeing a rise in residential and commercial development, with requests for planning permits up significantly
- business networks:
- how the local peer support among businesses is clearly thriving
- the great work businesses are doing with Commerce Moyne to make sure they have a business-led chamber
- the real need for an active business chamber in Warrnambool that’s set up and driven by local businesses – I believe doing so would give businesses a strong voice within the council and the new alliance of regional chambers of commerce, ensuring they’re part of the regional collective that government consults with.
My meetings were great forums for talking about the kinds of commercial disputes we can help resolve. I encourage small business people to learn more about the range of supports we’re providing as we navigate COVID normal.