1 in 5 Gladstone businesses to expand

WHILE most Gladstone business owners are raking in less cash, an overwhelming majority said they wouldn't be downsizing their work force. 

More than 50 per cent of businesses said they wouldn't be changing the size of their work force.

But the news gets better for workers, with 30 per cent of Gladstone businesses planning to increase their work forces.

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But the local economy is facing a battle on two fronts as the LNG construction boom comes to an end and global commodity prices hit an all-time low, squeezing Gladstone's major industry.


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But amid the 'doom and gloom' of the latest challenge facing business owners there are also opportunities for new ventures, pressure to diversify and the chance to make the most of new markets.

The full results of the 'Boom, Bust, Reset' study, released today, show most of the 253 businesses that took part in the survey expect the slowdown trend to continue over the next 12 months.


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One third of those operators --- most of which are large businesses employing more than 200 people --- said they would continue to downsize their workforce to stay afloat and 43% are expecting income over the next 12 months to be worse than the year before.

Almost 10% plan to close down.

However more than half will keep their current workforce and ride out the wave while 17% of business owners says they plan to hire more staff.

The majority of the latter are fairly new businesses, established within the past year and unsurprisingly it's the construction sector that has been hit the hardest. 

Last financial year was tough for most with 46% of businesses saying their gross income was less than the year before and 43% are braced for a worse outcome next year.

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The report also reveals that overall 24% are performing better than last financial year and many business are crying out for more services, particularly help with marketing, finance and strategic planning.

Armana director Lyndal Hansen, whose company was a sponsor of the study, said entrepreneurs now have an opportunity to adjust to the market and fill those gaps.

She has seen Gladstone cycle through three "boom and bust" periods and says businesses are letting opportunities fall by the wayside.

"I don't think we've been as entrepreneurial and innovative as we could be," Mrs Hansen said.

"The latest boom saw many businesses' income significantly increase and now those numbers are going down.

"But should we think of that as a downturn, or is this just business returning to a 'normal' level?"

A decrease in work, high costs of operating such as rent and taxes, and staff issues including fewer 'quality workers' to choose from, are the three major challenges businesses say they're facing.

There's an increase in micro-businesses --- or small operators employing less than five people --- some of which have tapped into a niche market and are growing rapidly while bigger organisations are shrinking.

And although the retail sector is struggling, there was a marked increase in the number of retail businesses participating in the study compared to 2014.

That shows a shift in focus from the industrial sector with retail more inclined to add its voice to the discussion.

But, Mrs Hansen said, those in the retail industry refusing to adapt to the 'new world' will continue to suffer.

"If a company sells a product and is finding people are more inclined to buy that product online - they need to adapt to ensure they stay relevant," she said.

"As an example, I spoke with one business owner who said customers were walking through the door asking for help to fix a product they'd bought online.

"The business owner took the view they wouldn't help because they were angry that customer hadn't purchased that product from them directly.

"But that's an example of where a business can diversify and adapt to tap into a new side of the market.

"The world has changed (with online shopping) and those businesses that haven't moved with that are suffering."

The 'Boom, Bust, Reset' report is Gladstone's largest business study with information collected over three months from November to February, which was then compared to the same information from 2014.

The study, commissioned by the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry only reflects the information provided by the 253 participants compared to the 212 from 2014.

The GCCI committee says following the report it will implement new strategies to help businesses including building confidence, providing information on 'beating high costs' and hosting a business expo to support new ideas and start-up businesses.

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