Letter to the Editor
The Courier 16 October 2012
This week Commerce Ballarat hosted a forum for the Ballarat business community with our Council candidates, it was interesting and beneficial to listen to the opinions of those that may soon direct the future of this city.
Ballarat is a beautiful city with a vibrant and active business community. Commerce Ballarat is one of the largest and most active Chambers of Commerce in the state and we are pleased to represent 400 local businesses offering a wide range of opportunities and services including the Ballarat Business Excellence Awards and the b2b Buy Local Campaign.
The impression that some people are portraying is that our city is broken and needs to be fixed; this is a far too negative attitude. There have been many positive initiatives over the past 4 years by this Council and their Officers which are now showing results. Commerce Ballarat believes that for a healthy city and business community we always need to strive for improvement but must not forget to celebrate and acknowledge previous achievements.
The City of Ballarat Economic Development Strategy provides a focus for the future of our city, sitting under this are other planning initiatives such as the CBD Strategy which is now bearing fruit with many new exciting businesses to open between now and Christmas.
The Western Growth Area and Employment Zone are crucial to the future of a city that will increase in population by 30,000 in less than twenty years. This planning initiative continues to be an immense achievement for the Economic Development Unit at the City of Ballarat and they should be proud that it now has solid support from both State and Federal Governments.
Aspirations are very important but they need to be tempered with practicality and reality, we now have a strong foundation on which we can build. Commerce Ballarat calls on all candidates to acknowledge the positive results from the past and ensure they are fully conversant with the planning and strategies which are in place. In November we begin the process of working together as a team, Councillors, the CEO, City of Ballarat Officers, business groups and our community so that the initiatives over the past four years can continue and become realities for the betterment of our city and its future residents.
Commerce Ballarat Statement re: November Public Holiday
Commerce Ballarat is an independent business representative organisation with over 370 members, we provide support, networking, development opportunities and advocate on behalf of business.
Commerce Ballarat has been lobbying Council consistently since the former State Government changed legislation which meant that Councils must pick one day for their public holiday. In relation to the 2012 November Public Holiday; we are pleased to have the decision deferred to allow more time for business representation.
A survey completed by Commerce Ballarat in 2011 showed that 67% of Ballarat businesses disagree with the Friday Ballarat Show Day Holiday, with responses coming from all sectors. This public holiday affects business in many ways, with a drop in retail spending being only the tip of the ice berg.
Friday is a 12 hour trading day and one of the busiest days of the week for retailers and hospitality. Both have indicated to CB that the Friday public holiday impacts them two fold - one being decreased trade and the other penalty rates. It is not possible for suppliers to our hospitality industry to have a Friday off as they are receiving produce from around the state and are required to deliver to restaurants, clubs, cafes and function venues to supply them for their weekend trade.
Many Ballarat Businesses trade state wide and nationally,and must open as Show Day is not recognised outside of Ballarat. Their customers expect them to trade. Along with this many companies that deal predominantly with Melbourne are restricted on Melbourne Cup day because these businesses are closed. There is a large variety of businesses in Ballarat that have employees under more than one award, which can mean that the gazetted holidays, may differ under local, state and federal employment agreements. I know of one such company that is forced to have half their staff off on each day which means both days become a financial liability.
In these times where businesses are faced with increasing costs through such things as the carbon tax, the productivity losses many businesses will incur as a result of a show Day holiday are in our opinion unnecessary. According to the ABS, small and medium sized business account for 60% of all employment, and therefore in these uncertain times we need to do everything we can to ensure the livelihood and viability of small business and therefore the employment opportunities and job security for working Australians.
2011 saw a situation where half of Ballarat was closed and half open, not a healthy state for a city of this size. This is not about gambling vs family; of course Commerce Ballarat is in support of the Ballarat Show as a family event and will assist the committee in any way possible to make it successful. The truth of the matter is this event does not contribute greatly to the economic wealth of this city and in fact most of the revenue leaves Ballarat. Commerce Ballarat supports a Melbourne Cup Day Public Holiday because it is the right decision for the businesses that are the lifeblood of our city.
Commerce Ballarat Statement re: Civic Hall Site
May 4, 2012
According to the Victoria in Future report released in April 2012 Ballarat’s population is expected to reach 130,000 within 20 years, we must be prepared to offer the required employment, infrastructure and services to ensure that Ballarat’s liveability and lifestyle are maintained. The Business Services Industry and Gap Analysis report, which was completed in December 2010, states that by 2021 Ballarat will require an additional 57,700m2 office space and increasing to 105,100m2 by 2031.
Commerce Ballarat cannot stress enough the importance of cementing the CBD as the commercial hub of the city; hence the need to ensure that future demand for office space is satisfied principally from within the CBD. Fragmenting the location of major office precincts means that the flow-on benefits of a substantial number of office workers within a particular area will be significantly reduced, and are unlikely to be of a sufficient scale to attract and benefit complementary businesses such as cafes and retailers. All of these factors make it imperative that this unique and large CBD site be developed to accommodate the growing need for centrally located commercial office space, multi level parking and public open space. Commerce Ballarat respects the complexities associated with developing this site due to the existing heritage overlay and Crown ownership. It will require determination, clarity and sound professional advice to navigate through these complex processes however we are confident that a sympathetic development now for Ballarat’s centralised commercial requirements is the most responsible use for our future.
Retailers Fight the Challenges
The Courier March 8, 2012
Commerce Ballarat is having an incredibly busy start to the year and is offering even more opportunities to the Ballarat business community and Commerce Ballarat members.
As we all know our retailers are facing some major challenges, fallout from the GFC, interest rates and online shopping to name a few. At Commerce Ballarat we know that a city must have a vibrant CBD and retail sector and have therefore offered many opportunities for promotion and development to retailers over the past three years.
In recent times we have offered a Customer Service Program, three merchandising workshops, a Social Media Marketing Program and a variety of other opportunities. However what is disappointing is that the take up of these offers is minimal by our retailers. To fight the challenge of increased online shopping, retailers must offer a point of difference, excellent service, superior product, be online and use every free marketing tool available such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Most recently some pro active Ballarat retailers approached us with an idea for a Ballarat Mega Traders Sale; they were enthusiastic about combining together and offering the community an opportunity to buy excellent products at great prices. They wanted to take on the itinerant traders at their own game. Commerce Ballarat and the City of Ballarat were excited to market and support this initiative, twenty retailers were required to make this a success unfortunately this opportunity once again was not taken up.
We have some fantastic retail businesses in Ballarat who are actively working to build their brand and to communicate with their customers on any number of levels. I can only encourage others in the sector to forget about the cost of parking- it is the same as Bendigo and cheaper than Geelong and Melbourne! Oh and if we can’t park 'right out the front’, then walking one block to where we want to go is good for our health!
Come on Ballarat businesses! I encourage all businesses including those in the retail sector to make the most of the opportunities available to them; I also encourage you to interact with other businesses because we can all learn from and support each other. More information www.commerceballarat.com.au