Gladstone business booming: 5% increase in new businesses

AMID the "doom and gloom" of Gladstone's ailing economy there's one type of business that's growing.

The results of the 'Boom, Bust, Reset' survey run by the Gladstone chamber of commerce won't be released until next week, but The Observer has an exclusive preview.

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The figures point to a more vocal retail sector and a continuing concern around high operating costs.

However there's also an emerging trend showing the town's entrepreneurial success, with a 5% increase in new businesses established within the past year.


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The chamber's project coordinator Lyndal Hansen says that's likely the result of more "micro-businesses" starting at home to reduce overheads, such as rent.

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Mrs Hansen says if those businesses can be supported and encouraged to grow they will evolve into small businesses, creating jobs and growth in our economy. New small business owners Jade and Jamie Pitt are a perfect example of a home-business evolving to become an employer.

They've tapped into a niche market and in less than a year turned a small home-based business into one of the busiest beauty salons in the city.

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In February the Lash and Brow Room on Tank St, which opened in October, was so popular they were turning away new clients and had a waiting list of 90 people.

Now there are three beauty therapists, including owner Jade, and husband Jamie working in the boutique salon which is fully booked until August.

Despite their success, Mr Pitt says there were challenges during the transition, namely finding a space they could afford to rent.

"We couldn't find anywhere in Goondoon St," Mr Pitt said.

"The cost of rent was just still too high which surprised me because businesses seem to be moving out.

"Overheads have definitely been the biggest challenge in setting up compared to being at home where we didn't have to pay (commercial) rent, but we were lucky to find this place."

Mr Pitt said the pair relied on advice from other small business owners on how to negotiate rent and where to find trusted professionals such as book keepers and solicitors.

"It would have been easier if there was an easily accessible list of trusted professionals and some clear, concise information about incentives from the government," he said.

Jade Pitt said there are some ongoing difficulties too, particularly with suppliers.

"We have to order everything online from Rockhampton and delivery charges are so expensive," she said.

The Pitts weren't one of the 253 businesses that participated in the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry's survey, but their experience highlights some areas where more can be done to support micro-business.

That's one of the chamber's main aims in collecting data on Gladstone businesses.

This is the second time this study has been run in Glad

stone, with the last one in 2014.

This year there was not only an increase in participation, which jumped from 212 businesses to 253, but an increase in retail businesses taking part in the survey, widening the focus from the industrial sector.

"It could also be that maybe retail businesses are starting to say, hey we have something to add too," Ms Hansen said.

The 2014 study revealed the three biggest issues facing Gladstone businesses were the downturn in work, high costs of doing business and competition.

Mrs Hansen wouldn't reveal if all of those issues had changed until next week at the official launch with major sponsor APLNG.

However she did confirm high costs had once again rated in the top three concerns, in particular rent.

"Now we have to ask ourselves, why are there high costs? Are people not coming down in terms of rent?" Mrs Hansen said.

"We've seen a number of small businesses closing down because the leases aren't being negotiated and that's something we need to examine as a community."

The full results of the Boom, Bust, Reset study, the second instalment to the highly commended 'Boom and Bust' study from 2014, will be released on Wednesday, April 6.

FINDINGS | Gladstone Boom, Bust, Reset survey

- 212 businesses participated in 2014 compared with 253 in 2016

- in 2016 50% of businesses were business group members, including GEA, GAPDL or GCCI compared to 66% in 2014

- 5% increase, from 3% to 8%, in new business established in the past 12 months

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