“Thank you Chair.

I rise to speak in support of Program 7, Economic Development. The importance of this program in particular cannot be understated Mr Chair. Local businesses are essential to Brisbane’s economy and in recent months, it has been incredibly difficult for local businesses who have continually had to adjust their day-to-day operations.

I would like to talk about the ways that we will be helping businesses to navigate these uncertain times by providing them with the tools and skills needed to overcome the economic challenges of the coronavirus crisis and continue their success into the future.

However, even before COVID-19, many Brisbane businesses were vulnerable to a variety of factors that require them to constantly evolve. Online trading,        e-commerce, social media and marketing are constantly changing and are crucial to remain viable. But learning about the many programs and resources that Council has on offer has reassured me that we are here to help and provide assistance in every way possible. Mr Chair I note Cr Cassidy claims Council have not provided enough full time staff dedicated to this area. It is important to note that these business programs are delivered by specialists in their field. These are Small-Medium Enterprises themselves who we are in turn supporting. Additionally Chair, many of these programs have been going for over 5 years so they aren’t listed in the Budget as they are now business as usual.

This administration has supported and will continue to support our local businesses. In addition to the signicant role they play in Brisbane’s economy, it’s also essential for our community to have access to these businesses and services in their suburbs and it feeds in to the leisure and lifestyle opportunities that this Council prides itself upon. So, Mr Chair, this Budget, Council will be doing just that. We will continue to support Brisbane businesses through forums, workshops, networking events, business liaison officers, dedicated online resources and more.

Navigating the ups and downs of owning and running a business is challenging and often isolating for many who may not have the support network or financial support to see them through. I am looking forward to providing these opportunities for my local businesses when safe to do so, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Council has two dedicated Business Liaison Officers who continue to engage and connect with small business owners across Brisbane.  They play a vitally important role in sharing information with business owners via one-on-one meetings or attendance at various business events on the programs and resources that are available from Council to help support businesses across the City.

The impacts of COVID have shown us that information sharing is critical and that having a strong online presence is where we are best placed to offer this type of support. This year, the Lord Mayor announced the Business and Local Economy Support Project. As part of this project, businesses will have access to a dedicated website that will support Council’s Business hotline that has done an outstanding job supporting businesses, particularly in recent months. This online space will also provide an extensive calendar of Brisbane business events, an online collaboration platform and importantly, it will have the capacity to link businesses directly to Council information and other relevant government and private resources. The new Brisbane Business online presence will be a gateway to existing and emerging businesses by providing enhanced information, resources and opportunities to connect and collaborate.

As part of this initiative, Council continues to provide a city-wide business events calendar for businesses to register their Brisbane-based event for free and reach a broader audience as well as look for business events in Brisbane. We recently launched the Business in Brisbane Facebook group which has grown to more than 2000 members. In this space, we share up-to-date resources and information from Council and encourage business owners to share their own ideas, ask questions and support each other.

Council publishes quarterly Economic snapshots in the Business in Brisbane newsletter with the aim of providing useful insights for Brisbane businesses. The articles covers a large variety of industries and topics showing the diversity of the Brisbane economy as well as detailing key economic facts. This information is also readily available on Council’s website.

Mr Chair, we are also focusing on young people who as we well know have been among the hardest hit in terms of job losses as this demographic are currently losing a lot of their casual work. We will be delivering a series of genYou inspire workshops targeted for 17-25 year olds that will provide greater knowledge and understanding about the essential skills and traits that will help them to succeed in a workplace. These are skills that they may not have learned in school or university such as personal branding, career management, mastering job applications and growing and nurturing their networks. The workshops have proven to be very popular with over 540 young people attending the events in 2020-21 so far and are set to continue with similar workshops to be held at the Brisbane Business Hub in the heart of the CBD. 

Another initiative I’d like to speak on is the inaugural Maker Entrepreneurship Program that in 2019/2020 provided 12 emerging business owners tools, skills and mentorship over a 16 week period to transform what may have been a hobby into a transactional business.

Mr Chair I have a group of young mums who meet and network at one of my local cafes who have online and home based businesses. These programs provide the opportunity for businesses just like theirs to grow, develop and thrive within Brisbane’s economy. It will bring them into the vacant storefronts and creative and artisan markets. In return, it is also providing Brisbane residents with more leisure and lifestyle opportunities to enjoy.

Other capacity building programs that will take place this year are ‘Networking in the Suburbs’ and ‘Skills Shot’ workshops. Tailored to focus on target industries, Skills Shot workshops will cover a multitude of topics ranging from employment skills, business survival through challenging times, supercharge your online sales, pricing and money management for online businesses and planning your home based business. The Networking in the Suburbs events  are in response to feedback received from the business forums that business owners have found networking with others to exchange ideas has been a profound take away. This year, Council plans to deliver approximately 40 networking sessions in libraries across Brisbane once social distancing regulations are lifted further.  In the meantime, they have also successfully transferred to an online format.

The Lord Mayor’s Business forums, continue to provide an essential service to Brisbane businesses with more than 5389 attendees since the forums started in 2012/2013. These figures aren’t inclusive of the Industry-specify Mayor’s Business Forums for Creative industry and Social Enterprise. It’s great to hear that these forums will also be expanded to partner with Council’s Sport and Recreation area to deliver a forum focussed on community groups who lease Council’s assets to inform them of what assistance is available from Council as well as an opportunity to learn from other business leaders in their sector.

Council will also continue to deliver Lord Mayor’s Excellence workshops. These workshops are interactive, and presenters are successful business leaders who provide information and share their business insights with attendees.  In response to social distancing restrictions imposed, many of these forums were also successfully transferred to a virtual format and will now continue to be delivered both online as well as traditional face-to-face workshops once restrictions are relaxed. In particular, the online format has proved highly successful with over 176 registrations for the first three online workshops, with the final workshop set to take place this week.

Mr Chair, these programs and workshops are a snapshot of Council’s investment into Brisbane businesses. To ensure the viability of Brisbane’s economy we are continuing to expand supportive avenues for businesses and provide a point of contact for those who are considering taking the leap. The business hotline that I referenced earlier has been an incredibly useful tool for both new and established businesses and I have received commendable feedback from many of the businesses in my community who have used them. The same must be said about our dedicated Small Business Liaison Officers. We are uniquely placed as a Council to provide our business community with a solid support base to build stronger and more resilient local economies.

I commend this program to the chamber.”