The current Australian business climate is certainly being perceived as ‘confusing’, said Mr Ron Hay President of the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce.
If we listen to the media, who through their financial reports are indicating that we have witnessed growth in our economy, share markets are good and interest rates are still low and look to remain steady, there is a tendency to think that we should feel more comfortable about our economic outlook, when we hear this information.
However, said Mr Hay, the current situation with three car manufacturer’s indicating their future does not include production plants in Australia, fruit processing factories closing and recent announcements by Qantas to review their operation, all of which are seeing significant job losses, the average person in the street, could not be blamed for being ‘confused’.
Some economists through the media are indicating that the mining sector has flattened and with the lower interest rates, it is now time to potentially see the housing sector, take a lead in economic growth, said Mr Hay.
It really begs the question, that if we see a downturn in manufacturing (as an industry), observe business reviewing their business models and a reduction in employment levels, who will have the money to go back into the purchasing of goods and services?
Mr Hay said you do not need to be an Einstein or an economic strategist, to realise that economic activity and development within communities that are both directly and indirectly affected by significant changes, will potentially see their economic base change.
I believe from a Whyalla perspective, we are still able to focus on what I term as our ‘stable economic base’, due to the manufacturing, mining, retail and services that are on our doorstep, said Mr Hay.
To some degree, I believe as a community, we are ‘sheltered’ from what is taking place nationally, however, we should be mindful of the following. First off, we not rest on this fact and secondly, it is probably fair to say, that economic downturns normally last for around 3-5 years, before we see slow but steady growth and then ‘take off’.
Mr Hay said, key organizations such as Regional Development Australia, Councils, Chambers and Governments of the day need to be working together, to plan our economic strategies, growth and diversity in industry and employment.
It is with interest that when you read comments about what will help bring economic development to a community, the word tourism always comes up.
Tourism is an economic input to this community and an important sector of our overall commercial make up, said Mr Hay.
We should as retail and hospitality outlets, be able to track where our customers come from, accommodation expenditure and the split between say tourists and company representatives, thus providing specific data on this sector and there are probably a number of businesses already do this.
However, the travelling tourists coming into our community, in my opinion may only deliver what I call ‘narrow band expenditure’. That is, money may only be injected across a relatively small number of business types for example, such as fuel, groceries and possibly site fees.
Mr Hay said, I acknowledge that tourism is a contributor to our economy, but to sustain and grow this community’s economy, it has to be done at a greater level from within, by us. In other words, take time to go to places you would not ordinarily go to on weekends or days off from work. This is what leads to growth, employment and sustainability.
Perceptions of our community play a big factor in how we think, said Mr Hay. If you think about why this community exists, the answer is industry and yes we were built on an industrial base. I along with other Chamber Executive members believe there is an unhealthy imbalance between industry and tourism, based on perceptions.
There are potential opportunities out there to raise the profile and we need to grasp those, whatever they may be.
Over the years, we have witnessed investment by many businesses which have not only been done to enhance that business, but also to create a better environment for you the customer and your visiting friends and relatives, said Mr Hay.
So in the first instance let us get out there, support business, be a tourist in your own town and see what difference it makes.