Dangling a carrot
SUNSHINE Coast Council's economic development branch is fielding an average of 20 new enquiries per week related to local business expansion and advancement or interstate business relocation and additional office openings.
The companies keen on growing in our area are lured by the lifestyle, easy access to a willing workforce, proximity to a national highway and capital city airport, IT capabilities, availability of commercial office space and increasingly affordable rents as landlords succumb to negotiation.
But perhaps the golden carrot council hopes will get them signing on the dotted line is its investment attraction initiatives including a $1million incentive scheme and Natural Advantage program offering a single entry point to access council support.
Among the incentives are cash grants and deferred rates or infrastructure charges, with each application judged on its merits.
The economic development branch has also taken more than 40 enquiries from businesses about the incentive scheme and is working directly with three existing local companies (who cannot be named) on incentive applications to grow their businesses.
The bulk of enquiries are from existing businesses, with about 20% from those operating outside the region, according to council.
"The Natural Advantage package was approved on September 14, 2011 and is designed to grow a more diversified economy, so the region is less susceptible to the fluctuations and shocks that effect the tourism, retail and construction sectors," council's economic development manager Craig Matheson said.
"It is also designed to encourage local business to flourish in what is a very difficult economic environment, create jobs that last for the long term, so the people that live in the region and their families have the opportunity to work locally, ensure the region is more competitive when trying to attract new investors to the region and create a stronger, more vibrant community with confidence that their businesses and associated employment opportunities are supported by council," Mr Matheson said.
"It was developed in partnership with some of the region's key business leaders from the Sunshine Coast Business Council, the University of the Sunshine Coast, our chambers of commerce and our own Economic Development Advisory Board."
Mr Matheson said the past two months had featured some major investment missions.
"The first to Melbourne on October 3 and 4 focussed on the clean technology and renewable energy sector.
"Mission delegates met with nearly 30 companies and council is now aggressively pursuing four viable investment leads for the region.
"Over the last month, council has hosted four visits to the region from companies involved in contact centre and health product manufacturing - companies that had no plans to come to the Sunshine Coast until they heard about council's business investment framework.
"Planning is underway for the next investment mission to Sydney in late January next year, with a focus on health and allied services."
He said the 20 weekly enquiries were coming from local businesses looking for advice and support from council.
They included resolving development requirements in one case, providing access to professional accounting advice for another firm to better understand the financial cost of relocating their business.
Council has launched a new business investment and support website (www.business.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au) and has released a new guide for establishing a business in the region, targeted specifically at small business operators.
The Business Ezy e-book is now live on www.business.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au as well.
Council is also currently advertising to fill two business investment facilitator roles.
They will act as client relationship managers for businesses looking to invest or reinvest locally.
ATTRACTING INVESTMENT WHEN TIMES ARE TIGHT
Council's economic development manager Craig Matheson said council welcomed recent news that corporate accounting firm UHY Haines Norton was setting up an office on the Sunshine Coast.
"It would be a great thing to announce a new business setting up in the region every day, but in the current financial climate, this is not realistic.
"That said, with council's new business development package, we are able to provide a strong and competitive offer for new investors as well as support those businesses that are already in the region, all part of council's commitment to establish the Sunshine Coast as one of the best locations in Australia to do business."