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Support for local business restructuring

This post looks at how local councils have been offering grants to improve the online capabilities of local businesses, while others offer management training and advice.

Part of a series on Place-Based Responses to COVID-19

The containment policies introduced by federal and state governments in response to COVID-19 place business under great stress, resulting in significant operational disruption for many firms. With staff under quarantine, failing supply chains, orphaned or unavailable inventories, and sudden reductions in demand from customers, many businesses are being forced to develop contingency plans and to rethink their business models.

One of the big winners (and I am unsure I should be using terms like ‘winners’) is e-commerce. Some sources suggest online shopping has increased by more than 30 per cent in recent months. In Italy, e-commerce transactions were reported in April 2020 to have soared 81 per cent since the end of February. Many local restaurants and cafes have switched to takeaways and home-deliveries, while other online modalities are also being pursued by businesses.

In response to these emerging challenges, local councils have been offering grants to improve the online capabilities of local businesses, while others offer management training and advice.

Grants for Improving in Online and e-Commerce Capabilities

  • The City of Melbourne (Vic) has released $5 million in financial support for small to medium sized businesses. This includes up to $5,000 available for 400 businesses investing in online and e-commerce activities such as purchasing hardware and software, developing website and ecommerce, creating online content, online and e-commerce training, and digital marketing.
  • The City of Sydney (NSW) has established a Small Business Grants Program, valued at $2 million, which will support businesses with innovation and adaptation grants to modify their operating model in order to produce income, and supply products or services, to address a current or emerging demand in the market. Funds can also be used to develop online and e-commerce capabilities, undertake training and professional development and invest in capital works.
  • The City of Parramatta (NSW) is providing grants to eligible local businesses of up to $2,000 (from a pool of $100,000) to help modify their operating model and continue to generate revenue during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The City of Hobart (Tas) offers business grants designed to assist small business as well as the wider community by providing financial assistance for marketing activities. eCommerce Support Grants are quick response funding for small retail businesses affected by COVID-19. These grants cover fees that are associated with selling goods online (e-commerce).
  • Western Downs Regional Council (Qld) Business Support Initiatives Program includes the E-Commerce Support Program to include webinars and consultations to help businesses build their online presence, social media and website.
  • The City of Bayswater (WA) has launched the Buy in Baysie grant funding program, which is available to businesses who are looking for online solutions to adapt their business in line with new restrictions due to COVID-19. Local businesses are invited to apply for up to $750 to help move some of their goods or services online. This could cover costs to set up a Shopify or Squarespace store, or for a device to live stream classes or consultations.
  • The City of Hobart (Tas), through the Hello Hobart website, offers Business Ideas in COVID-19. ‘Being resilient and flexible are what gets the business community through at this tough time. We wanted to share some ideas about what other businesses are doing to give you inspiration should you need it!’
  • The deputy manager of the City of Toronto (Canada) describes how the City Council is “putting a lot of emphasis on creating a digital Main Street, getting all of the businesses up on the web because this will change consumer habits for good”.

Business Management Training

Many councils are offering business management training courses to local small business to help them better respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This includes online courses run by council staff, as well as grants to eligible business to access the training and advice they require.

  • The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (NSW) is offering free (or ‘close to free’) training courses to local businesses, to assist in navigating the current crisis and positioning themselves to continue trading and maximise opportunities when the situation eases. The course includes twelve online modules, each with multiple lessons and live online events.
  • The City of Melbourne (Vic) provides grant funds of up to $2000 for training and professional development for 500 organisations to equip staff with new and enhanced skills to prepare for changing conditions or recovery, such as attending training courses, and undertaking online learning and webinars.
  • The City of Sydney (NSW) is organising free online workshops on Doing Business Better via Zoom for small businesses and entrepreneurs to learn practical tools from industry experts and take away actionable ideas. There has never been a more important time to upskill and adapt your business in this challenging time. A series of other business management topics will be held each month.
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