On Wednesday 14th November I spoke on behalf of small business at a particularly exciting council meeting.
Dismayed by the complete omission of small business ANYWHERE in discussion, strategic plans or consultation for the last couple of years the Hornsby Chamber, local business leaders and yours truly, have been persistently lobbying council to bring small business back on the agenda. Planning for the future of small business has literally been missing in the Hornsby Shire since 2011.
It was strange that it fell off really, considering there are over 13,000 registered businesses in council’s area – the vast majority non-employing and working from home. Despite this, up to last month we had no council business events, no one to connect you to local business groups and no official events to support small business in our shire. For 7 years.
Back in 2011 we did have an economic development officer. That one staff member that businesses could rely on as a contact point and who creates the scaffolding on which we can thrive. This is part of normal economic development practice at most other local councils; promoting local business events, having a business listing page on their website, hosting fantastic educational, networking & innovative events … you name it. But after 2011 Hornsby Council decided not to renew the economic development strategy at all, and off the agenda we went.
That all changed on Wednesday night thanks to the tireless efforts of Cllr Janelle McIntosh. She raised motions which were unanimously supported to bring economic development back onto the agenda. It was super exciting. The passed motions included:
• amending the delivery program to include economic development as a KEY INITIATIVE
• Plan for a local, collaborative forum to provide Council with ongoing advice, information and local intelligence regarding business, town centres, tourism and economic development in our Shire
• Outline how Council could promote and support the activities of the nonprofit business networking groups through promotion on Council’s website and regular annual umbrella events such as Small Business Month
• Thank those who participated in the consultation
So… what’s next? Those who have been advocating for years for small business will gather our strengths and make sure that the council keeps small business top of mind. We’ll be asking for better promotion of the great events hosted by business groups already here, expect the council to deliver on their promise for small business month events, and look forward to better collaboration with council on their forum.
Why? Because according to powers that be, Small Business is the engine room of the Australian economy, the largest employer and the driver of innovation and growth – It’s no different here.
In Hornsby, we just got a jump start.