Without Connection, Innovation Cannot Thrive
When you talk to a business owner or operator from regional WA they can reel off an impressive list of all of the advantages to being based in a regional location and they certainly would not have it any other way, however if you ask them for the one thing that is an impediment to doing business in regional WA they would all say access to reliable broadband.
Of course there is a great deal of work being done in trying to deliver broadband access all over regional WA and we understand it is a massive task for our massive state, however being able to access the internet quickly and easily without interruption is not a luxury item for any business, it is an essential utility just like power and water.
If you think about all of the ways a business depends on the internet, or how you do in your daily life, it really is difficult to imagine not being able to. Businesses order, sell, promote, connect, market and in some cases wholly exist via the internet. And then, when you think about their customer’s point of view you realise that if people cannot reach you online, then you may as well not have a business.
We know of many example of international tourists staying in magnificent locations all over regional WA that chose not to return because they can’t access the internet, which means they can’t stay connected to their world, which for many is a non-negotiable travelling essential.
Having reliable access to broadband is not just an imperative for the regional business communities. We know that the two main reasons that people, who would otherwise chose to stay living in regional WA, are forced to move is because of access to education for their children or access to specific health care. Access to broadband can be the solution to this problem. There are many online based health and education services being delivered currently to accessible parts of regional WA, and with reliable internet connections this could mean that families stay where they are, populations don’t shrink and the regional communities become far more sustainable.
We have these incredibly innovative methods of delivering services to remotes parts of the state, however if you can’t access the internet, you are no better off.
The challenge is trying to address this issue quickly and not allowing political will, regulatory burden or even self-interest get in the way. Reliable access to broadband is an essential service for all of Western Australia, and it needs to be treated that way by everyone.
Talk to the Locals First
One of the true frustrations of all regional business communities is decisions being made by either large organisations, Government Departments or policy makers without talking to the people that the decision is going to affect first. And the decision may actually be for positive change, it’s just that no one locally was talked to, consulted with or even asked what they thought. The result of this is that any change (good or bad) is then met with great resistance from the local community.
RCCIWA encourages all decision makers to take advantage of the strong resource that is the Chamber of Commerce or Business Association in each regional town or city. They have the knowledge, information, local expertise and the network to be able to tell you exactly what is happening in their area and their region and they can connect you with the right people. By consulting first with the local
Chamber or Business Association not only will you be getting the real information you will also end up with a collaborative approach to whatever the decision is, and the outcome will undoubtedly be much smoother.
The local Chamber or Business Association is member driven, led by committed and passionate people and represents people and families who are completely invested in that area, so it makes sense to us that they would be consulted early as they will end up being the people who drive and carry the decision.'
Local Regional Procurement/Local Content
With a mandate to create more local jobs for more local people, the new WA Labor Government has made strong commitments to ensuring Government and large scale projects utilise local businesses and service providers wherever possible. We commend our new Premier and his cabinet on this message and will be working hard to ensure this promise is delivered and to assist them in making sure that wherever possible, local businesses are used for delivering goods and services.
One of the barriers to ensuring that local businesses secure as much of the work as they can deliver or provide, is the way the contracts are written or structured, the fact that local content is not considered right from the beginning and also that local businesses are not even approached or aware at any stage of the tendering.
Often the view put forward by Government Departments in regards to local procurement is that there is just not the local capacity, however when asking many regional businesses about this, they state that they did have the capacity to deliver what was required – they just were never asked.
There are some great recent examples of Government departments and agencies truly considering and delivering local procurement like the Water Corporations recent infrastructure upgrades in The Wheatbelt. This took a genuine drive and concerted effort by the previous Minister, Mia Davies and true collaboration with the local Wheatbelt Business Network which ultimately saw local businesses and the project itself benefit greatly.
With many of our members developing capability registers for their members outlining exactly what can be delivered locally, and with businesses willing to work collectively there is plenty of room for growth in local procurement. We offer our support and assistance to the state Government in increasing the level of local content both on Government tenders and supply and large scale projects in regional WA.
Shop Local – This goes for Individuals too.
Shopping locally is much more than a slogan, it is for many businesses what keeps them viable. And it is not just obvious retail purchases - it is cars, builders, machinery, local professional services, and doctors and so the list goes on.
By shopping where you are, you are not only injecting money into a local economy you are also ensuring that those businesses can continue to stock a good variety of products, keep their margins reasonable as they have reliable turnover and keep employing local people. Local businesses truly are the economic generators of their region and need your support.
The added benefit of shopping locally is that you get personal service. A friendly face that knows the region, knows their product and is happy to spend time and energy ensuring you have a good experience. This is not something you get with the click of a mouse.
It is also important to remember that it is those business who are approached every single day to support the local footy club, donate vouchers for the next quiz night, sponsor the horse riding club or donate their time in some form or another. And they all do it willingly because they are committed, passionate members of that community.
Shopping locally also applies to the businesses themselves. We understand that on some occasions there is no option but to purchase from outside of the area, however most business owners do their best to buy locally wherever possible. It can be a good idea to talk to your local suppliers before you shop away, as often there is a local solution that sees the dollars staying in your community.
Every purchasing decision we all make has consequences that we probably never think about, so next time let’s make that decision to shop locally.
Raising the Payroll Tax Threshold
The RCCIWA is urging the State Government in this next budget to raise the Payroll Tax Threshold from $850,000 as it is currently, to $1M to allow small to medium size businesses to employ more people, expand their business and ultimately be more sustainable and viable. Raising the threshold to $1m would provide a tax break to more than 1100 WA businesses, at a time when we are seeing a strengthening of economic activity in many parts of Regional WA. We need to ensure this activity is supported by committed local businesses through a more reasonable payroll tax threshold that drives growth.
With the recent changes to WA’s GST distribution, the need to diversify the economy and the State Government having “Regional Prosperity” as a whole of Government priority, we are of the firm view that the time is right to raise the threshold in the upcoming state budget. We commend and congratulate the strong financial performance of the State Government and believe that this also provides the perfect environment for raising the payroll tax threshold to be a widely acceptable financial decision that will deliver far reaching benefits.
The result of very low current threshold is that many businesses chose not to grow their operations by not employing more people and not taking on more work. Higher wages needed to attract and retain regional employees in some regional areas also means that regional businesses are unfairly inhibited as they reach the threshold with fewer employees. This means that those regional businesses which we need to flourish and grow to support their local communities and to provide a platform of larger investment, just keep doing what they are doing or eventually stop doing it because of the lack of incentive.
We also know of businesses that are choosing to move some of their work and their functions off shore so they can remain under the threshold. This is completely counterintuitive to growing regional communities, however the burden of that tax is forcing them to take this action.
The other impact of the low Payroll Tax Threshold is that the tax is money that otherwise would have stayed in the regional area, but instead it is sent straight to Treasury. Prior to the 2017 state election, one of our members, The Wheatbelt Business Network asked their members about the Payroll Tax Thresholds and what implications it had on their business currently, and their business plans going forward. Aside from the constrictive nature of this tax, if you calculated the total amount of payroll tax, just from 8 businesses it equates to $1,057,000 leaving the Wheatbelt.
Payroll tax presents a significant barrier to employment as it deters small business owners from taking on more staff as they approach the tax threshold, and we are of the view that an increase in the threshold will create more jobs as validated by recent research commissioned by WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIWA). The economic modelling found that lifting the payroll tax threshold by $100,000 to $950,000 would create nearly 900 jobs for workers – directly and indirectly – with a $238 million economic benefit to the state. We are calling for a raising of the threshold to $1,000,000 in the upcoming budget.
Currently the State Government has the highest payroll tax collection in Australia, which was justified previously by our low GST share. This no longer is the case. It is time to raise the Payroll Tax Threshold, as currently the threshold is an inhibitor and disincentive for business and job growth.
Regional Business Communities – Entrepreneurial, Resilient and Resourceful
It is very difficult to talk generally about business communities in regional Western Australia as they cover so many different sector types, are all different shapes and sizes and all have their own personalities. That being said, what we do know is that regional WA is where all of the economic generators of this state are found, and ensuring all of our regional towns and cities are supported and developed to their potential is vital for the state, and the nation.
We also know that regional business communities are extremely entrepreneurial. Often this is out of necessity, but also it can be because the type of person that takes on a challenging business concept or opportunity has that nature. Either way the sometimes isolated locations, trying economic conditions and smaller communities often produce great technological advances or new ideas in the way we do business. You only have to look at farming practises of today, compared to thirty years ago to see this in effect.
And with a small community comes a much more connected community and the entrepreneurial spirit becomes contagious.
Regional businesses also know all too well, that economic driver’s change and that you have up and down times in each and every sector. Whilst we are currently experiencing a big change in parts of the resources sector, agriculture, horticulture, tourism, hospitality, the gold sector and creative industries are all experiencing growth. The changes in what is driving the economy brings with it great resilience by the business owners and operators within them. They learn quickly how to adapt and change as well as how to make prudent business decisions when required and tough it out as needed.
We see many regional communities in recent years that have diversified their economic base. Esperance is a great example of this and has developed into an industry diverse town and with that has come business confidence, a changing population demographic and great opportunities for success and continued growth.
If you talk to a business owner from regional WA, they will tell you that above all else, the regions are full of opportunities. In a regional business community you are connected, supported and cheered on, for every regional town or city wants all of their businesses to succeed. Its adds another layer of motivation to people that are already motivated and resourceful, and this can only to lead to more regional business growth and success.