The Hunter Business Chamber has given in-principle support to a more collaborative framework for Newcastle’s community-based business organisations but cautioned that any new service provision model should reflect the intent of the special rate levy and support the diverse needs of the city’s various business precincts.
Speaking after the release by Newcastle City Council of the AECOM report into the city’s Business Improvement Associations (BIAs), Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said local business groups had already recognised the potential advantages of working more closely and initiated a process of forming a collaborative forum.
“Hunter Business Chamber has recently been involved in facilitating the formation of a collaborative organisation, under the working title of Newcastle Business Forum, to unite and represent the combined interests of business communities across the city of Newcastle,” Bob said.
“The aim is to provide a collaborative platform for business chambers and groups within the city to advocate, coordinate activities and share ideas and resources.
“The chamber believes the enthusiasm and goodwill the groups have brought to this process can be harnessed to improve business outcomes across the city.”
Councillors have considered a recommendation of the AECOM report to introduce competitive funding for Newcastle’s business organisations, with administrative support to be provided by an independent third party working on behalf of all BIAs.
“The chamber supports the concept of freeing up more funds from the special rate levy for events, local projects and infrastructure, however we also acknowledge that these activities are very resource-intensive,” Bob said.
“Marketing, accounting, event management, preparing grant applications, writing business plans and meeting the reporting requirements of funding agreements are tasks that can consume a lot of time and money and require a certain level of expertise.
“If initiatives such as the introduction of centralised administration and fast-tracking event approvals can streamline these processes, then there are potential benefits for business organisations and the community.
“However, these changes should be implemented in a way that ensures BIAs can continue to support the property owners and businesses within their precincts that fund the levy.
“Before council makes a definitive decision, it would be constructive to know more about how the competitive funding process and other operational aspects of the proposed model will work.”
Bob said the chamber supported the report’s recommendation to align the activities and actions of business associations with the objectives of planning strategies such as the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan and Destination Marketing Plan, as this would provide a common focus for long-term outcomes.
IMAGE | Newcastle Now is a local Business Improvement Association that will be participating in the collaborative forum, the Newcastle Business Forum.
With more than 1800 members, the Hunter Business Chamber is the largest regional business chamber in Australia and represents the collective interests of a diverse range of sectors across the Region.
The Chamber provides members with a range of services from advocacy and business advice to information and networking opportunities.
Business support is vital in today's economic climate and our primary goal is to assist and represent the needs of businesses in our community.
The Chamber is committed to partnering with all industries in ensuring the ongoing growth and sustainability of the Hunter Region.