Business confidence on the rise in the Wide Bay-Burnett

Thursday 23 March, 2017 | By: Darrell Giles | Tags: back to work program, unemployment, knauf, health services sector

Small business confidence is rising in the Wide Bay-Burnett region on the back of infrastructure delivery.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) Wide Bay-Burnett Regional Policy Council confirmed increasing confidence from the Fraser Coast to Bundaberg.

Council co-chairs Yale Morgan and Sandra Holebrook, who hosted the regional policy council meeting in Wide Bay last night, said major projects, particularly in the health services sector, were progressing.

“As health services is one of the largest growing sectors in the region, Wide Bay-Burnett is primed for the rollout of the NDIS and all the opportunities this presents small business,” Mr Morgan said.

“The biggest challenge for the NDIS is finding the workforce to fill the anticipated massive jobs growth in the region from what is currently a tiny labour pool.”

Council members and small business representatives also discussed recent ABS labour market figures from January 2017, which saw the unemployment rate in the region fall to 8.5 per cent.

Unemployment in the region had been as high as 12.8 per cent in January 2015, falling to 9.5 per cent in January 2016.

Mr Morgan and Ms Holebrook welcomed the improvement in employment across the region this year.

“With job vacancies on the rise and the labour market showing positive signs, Wide Bay-Burnett businesses are feeling confident for the future,” Ms Holebrook said.

“This is translating into businesses expanding their workforce. There is a general feeling among the business community that this is start of something big.”

On the performance of the State Government, business leaders welcomed initiatives such as the $100 million Back to Work program, which has the highest take-up across any region in Queensland.

The program has so far supported 292 Wide Bay-Burnett employers to hire 428 local jobseekers. The success of the program has seen it be extended to October 2017, so businesses can still access the incentive payments.

“With respect to Advance Qld, businesses see its relevance, but are worried about the red tape and general take-up of the program. This is a result of the difficulty associated with businesses being able to get their hands on any funding,” Mr Morgan said.

“We know Bundaberg is the jewel in the crown across the region at the moment and the big news story is the new $70 million Knauf plasterboard facility (pictured) and associated work around the port.

“It shows there is commitment from the government and the private sector to getting the region moving and the business community wants to capitalise on this momentum.”

The regional council expressed some concerns about on-going rises in electricity prices, water supply and security, and regenerating the sugar industry. It also wanted to see more long-term planning for major infrastructure projects in the region.

“The entire Wide Bay-Burnett region needs to be on the same page, talking up the positives aspects and opportunities for business and the local economy over the next year,” Mr Morgan said.

“The CCIQ regional council will be talking up investment opportunities and doing everything possible to help small business capitalise on the renewed confidence in one of Queensland’s booming areas.”

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