In a speech at the recent Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia (SEGRA) conference, Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, acknowledged the importance of small business to regional communities, saying that it, “powers regional employment and regional economies.”1
Indeed, of the 1.8 million small businesses currently operating in Australia, more than 650,000 (35 per cent) operate in Australia’s regional areas.2 Given that small businesses employ a staggering 7 million of the 11.5 million workers1 in Australia today, Minister Truss noted that small business was particularly important to regional Australia.1
Small business is very important to Aussies
Galaxy research recently conducted a survey on behalf of American Express and the overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of respondents from a representative cross-section of Australians said that local, small business was important to the community.3
Small businesses are the cultural heart of regional Australia. More than half (58 per cent) of the participants agreed that small businesses provide their community with an identity.3
Unfortunately, the majority of small businesses (65 per cent) admit to feeling forgotten in their local communities.4 This sense of detachment may be observed among business owners in capital cities as well as those in regional and rural areas. It is, however, heartening to know that the vast majority of Australian consumers (85 per cent) indicated that they would miss small businesses in their local area if they were forced to close down. 3
The power of small business
Of those surveyed, just under half (47 per cent) of the shoppers from regional and rural areas indicated that they were more likely to feel disappointment when a local, small business closes its doors. A fifth of shoppers said they would feel both annoyed (20 per cent) and regretful (20 per cent) if a small business closed down in their area.3
Regional business owners should be glad to know that almost half of the small businesses surveyed outside of the capital cities (48 per cent) were more likely to take the view that camaraderie with other local businesses is alive and well.4 It is this unity in the regional small business sector that helps bolster the sense of community that regional consumers associate with it.
“The lifeblood of our regional communities”
Small business is more important to Australia’s regional communities, not just because it employs more Australian workers than any other sector, but because it provides a sense of identity to the community. In his speech at SEGRA this year, Minister Truss observed that small businesses “are the lifeblood of our regional communities and the livelihoods for families right across the country.”1
This November, American Express – along with Principal Partners EnergyAustralia, MYOB, NAB and Virgin Australia – are committed to bringing customers to the doors of small businesses. Visit shopsmallaustralia.com and join the Shop Small movement.
1 Warren Truss, Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia, October 2013
2 The National Party, Our Plan for Regional Australia (PDF), August 2013
3 Galaxy Research, October 2013 – Conducted online among a representative sample of 1,003 residents, 18-64 year old, throughout Australia including both capital city and non- capital city areas.
4 Galaxy Research, October 2013 – Conducted online among a representative sample of 301 Australian businesses that mainly deal direct with consumers.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
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