2020 has been a troubled year, but a report published this month suggests that small businesses are slowly regaining confidence. Here in Goulburn, Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Darrell Weekes said the mood in town could be summed up as one of cautious optimism.
"Goulburn businesses are resilient, and their owners are hard-working and committed," Mr Weekes said. Their mentality was: "We made it this far; we can make it all the way through!"
That defiant spirit is on the rise throughout the state, according to the October Sensis Business Index, a quarterly survey of metropolitan and regional small and medium enterprises.
In NSW, more than 60 per cent of businesses are confident about the future (18.9 per cent are extremely confident, 42.1 per cent fairly confident). Business confidence has almost doubled in Sydney since September; 22 per cent of businesses are extremely confident about the next six months, up from 12 per cent last month. Only 17.9 per cent of businesses statewide are worried, while in Sydney the number of extremely worried businesses has halved from 11 per cent to 5 per cent.
Similar confidence is reported in Queensland, South Australia, and even Victoria, according to the Sensis report, but Tasmania and Western Australia have suffered a loss in confidence.
Overall, Mr Weekes thought, Goulburn had fared very well compared to other regional centres. From one perspective, he agreed that the economic outlook had improved in the last month; some businesses had even reported record months.
But other businesses had been hit hard by shutdowns. "For a lot of small and medium enterprises, cash flow is always tight, and keeping the doors open is almost a week-to-week proposition," Mr Weekes said. "The Cashflow bonus and JobKeeper were a virtual lifeline for a lot of businesses - but with the Cashflow bonus finished, and JobKeeper winding down, some businesses will struggle, for sure."
The Chamber has run several initiatives this year to help businesses keep afloat. This month, for instance, they are holding three free workshops in attracting, retaining, and motivating employees. Talent2580 is run as part of Small Business Month, in conjunction with Goulburn Mulwaree Council, and with the support of the NSW Government. The final workshop will take place on Thursday evening; to register, visit http://www.talent2580.eventbrite.com.au/.
Early next year, the Chamber will hold the Business 2580 Expo; local businesses will showcase their products and services, while job seekers can see what is on offer locally.
The Chamber also launched a 'shop local' campaign, Shop 2580, encouraging residents to buy within their postcode.
More than 5000 people voted in this year's business awards, held online in May. "Winners received tremendous exposure along with the recognition," Mr Weekes said.
What Goulburn needs now, Mr Weekes believes, is an influx of tourist dollars and innovative industries. (Such, perhaps, as Dragon Glass, which could turn Goulburn into Australia's glass capital.)
"Local businesses need to draw people here from outside Goulburn to spend their money," Mr Weekes said. "They need strong population growth, more tourist dollars, and outside investment. Goulburn is the perfect location to attract new industry. Innovative businesses who can sell to the international market while taking advantage of the favourable economic economic conditions that exist in Goulburn."