Rocky’s council candidates share plans to support business
THERE'S only five days remaining in the 2020 local government campaign and we've quizzed the contenders for the roles of mayor and councillors in Rockhampton Regional Council on the following question: "How could (the) council better support small and medium businesses and the CBD to create more jobs?"
Mayoral candidate: Chris Hooper
People who buy online are deceiving themselves. If they bought from local shops, they would create jobs for themselves or their children.
Most goods for sale have a mark-up of 100 per cent or more. If they sell cheaper people would be inclined to buy locally.
High rates charged by council are a downer together with the landlords high lease prices.
My idea of reclaiming Alma and Kent streets for a cheaper variety of village style housing would put life into East St for local shop holders.
Mayoral candidate: Margaret Strelow
We have deliberately positioned Rockhampton Region as a "smart region" with the implementation of a cohesive smart strategy and the success of the Smart Hub, which was a particular project of mine.
We've been ahead of the curve and recognised as innovators and leaders because of the responsiveness of our infrastructure charges concessions which has given special concessions for the CBD.
We have won accolades for the recent housing construction grant, our asset management and our financial management.
Advance Rockhampton (which I devised and which sits under my portfolio) has an outstanding list of achievements.
It delivers tourism, events, marketing, and economic development for Rockhampton Region.
Division 1: Sherrie Ashton
I would like to see a Business Development Manager engaged on a short term (1-2 year) contract to meet with small and medium business in the CBD and drill down to identify their challenges and where possible provide targeted assistance and support to help them either grow, sell or exit their business.
I'd like to see greater effort placed on a "Buy Local, Buy Proud" campaign that also includes compulsory participation in a quality and fun "customer service" training program so small and medium businesses fully understand how to create a customer experience that will have those people return to shop well past the campaign hype.
Division 1: Shane Latcham
The shops in the CBD are vacant because rents are too high, parking is limited and because of the costs to repair old buildings for incoming businesses.
The CBD is one of the many precincts around Rockhampton that has a "graveyard" of small and medium businesses from being unable to pay increasing rents as rates and fees increase each year.
Rockhampton Council needs to look financially attractive to encourage growth of existing (and entice new) businesses to the city.
A reduction of "fixed" operational costs such as rates, levies/compliance fees and water costs would allow existing businesses to remain open and employ more staff.
Division 1: Vincent Robertson
Not being aware of all costs currently involved, it would be hard for me to know where (the) council may be able to provide to small or medium businesses.
I would like to suggest that improving / updating the facade of the buildings to give the city centre a more modern appearance, would make it more attractive to consumers. Longer parking closer to shops would be advantageous to elderly consumers, or those with young families.
Division 2: Neil Fisher
I was very keen during the next term of the council to promote the real prospects for small and medium businesses in developing future commercial opportunities in aviation at Rockhampton Airport knowing the Bruce Highway will be relocated to beside the airport, and developing agriculture opportunities along the Fitzroy River and Rookwood area and developing a circle economy in recycling including solar panel recycling.
But now Rockhampton Region is already feeling the early economic effects of the coronavirus.
I believe in the coming weeks and months Rockhampton Regional Council should be focused on reducing the impact of the coronavirus on our community.
Division 2: Gavin Shuker
Given these unprecedented times there is a lot the council can do. I know the council in the past waived fees in the CBD.
My personal view is that this can be expanded to a whole of region to not only grow and help businesses survive but to give incentives to entice business and projects to come to the area. The more jobs available, the better the economy for everyone including restaurants and the many other businesses.
Division 3: Tony Williams
Every business is unique and has its own concerns. That's why I would like the council to run a forum to hear from small to medium businesses. Helping our small to medium businesses to stay afloat in these turbulent times will take a joint effort from all levels of government. When bans for Covid-19 are lifted, I would like the council to facilitate a campaign to get shoppers back into the CBD. A night where CBD vendors are invited to participate by offering unique deals to the community could be a great way to get some foot traffic back into our businesses.
Division 4: Ellen Smith
The CBD has long been my favourite place to shop; it was our only shopping centre once.
The council has helped with our Facade Improvement Grant, landscaping and the popular tree fairy lights. There has been liaison with traders during street upgrades. I believe the traders need to reform their group and promote themselves. The council can then work with them to improve their business and create more employment.
The pandemic that is changing the world will cause challenging times for all businesses. All businesses need our support, now, more than ever before.
Division 5: Peter Anderson
When businesses put in applications for their business, help them through the hurdles. At the moment, they lodge their application, pay their fees and do not know if they will be approved. If they are not all that money is gone.
There is plenty of good staff in this area that can guide them through. We could have incentives there. In these dire times defer rates until businesses can get through the coronavirus.
With the CBD if shop owners have their rentals too high deliberately and their shop is empty, charge more rates. If they were genuine, they would lower their rents.
Division 5: Cherie Rutherford
There is more than the Rockhampton CBD to be considered when we talk about small and medium business. Covid-19 will undoubtedly hit businesses hard but it is not the only risk facing this sector.
Online shopping has had a significant impact on small business and will continue to do so unless we, as individuals, make a conscious effort to support and shop local. Our children's jobs depend on it.
The council can play an important role in encouraging local buying, promoting our small businesses and helping them to come together to complement various strengths and weaknesses and support each other.
Division 6: Drew Wickerson
The council has implemented a range of initiatives to support small to medium businesses in the region. The Rockhampton Housing Grant program has been hugely successful, motivating an outstanding recovery in this important business sector. The Resource Sector Relocation Incentives Scheme unashamedly is helping resource businesses engaged in mining, equipment maintenance, technology and related services to attract employees to our region. The Smart Hub continues to achieve outstanding success to incubate and support highly innovative start-up businesses. Events such as the Riverfestival, Rocky River Run, CapriCon and RockyNats draw locals and visitors in their thousands, positively benefiting local businesses.
Division 7: Noeleen Horan
Did not submit an answer.
Division 7: Donna Kirkland
Vigilant, deliberate, open communication on the needs and suggestions of local businesses is the first practical step to a transparent, supportive relationship with the council.
We have incredible resources right here in our town plus business people with immense insight and vision. My discussions with business owners reveal a desire for a collaborative approach to bring local jobs.
A small-business owner for over 30 years, I have "lived experience" to bring to the table. Experience plus the skills, tenacity and leadership called on to run small business with endurance and outside the box thinking, I am qualified to represent Division 7.
• Gracemere Community Centre, 6‐9 Barry St, Gracemere
• James Lawrence Pavilion, Rockhampton Showgrounds, New Exhibition Rd, Wandal
• The Green Shed, 36 Thompson Ave, Mount Morgan
• Yeppoon Town Hall, 25 Normanby St, Yeppoon