Peter Strong: Small businesses are the beating heart of their communities, and they need those communities now more than ever

Michaelia Cash Peter Strong Pru Goward David Alcorn Go Local First

COSBOA's Peter Strong with Go Local First Champion Pru Goward, former Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash and David Alcorn, owner of Mocan and Green Grout Café in Canberra. Source: supplied.

This year has seen a huge portion of the Australian workforce shift to working from home. 

Local cafes that had long been people’s weekend haunts became daily destinations. 

Then as restrictions began to ease, and before Australians began returning to their offices, life returned to local high streets – or at least to those businesses that have managed to survive the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

We frequently hear about small business and the role it plays in our national economy. But small business is far from the abstract concept we read about in the news. 

Small business is responsible for a third of Australia’s economic activity and pays wages for more than half the workforce. Small businesses employ others and give opportunity to those well beyond their own staff. 

People are drawn in by high streets uniquely populated with independent businesses run by locals — whether in Bowral, Balmain, or Bright. 

Small businesses are the beating heart of their communities. They provide their communities with a unique soul, which is lost when they disappear or are replaced with bland franchises. 

Perhaps that’s the reason walking a street lined with boarded-up windows and “for lease” signs can leave you feeling despondent. 

The nature and locations of small businesses may vary beyond just the high street — to industrial estates, in homes, and on the road — but what remains consistent is they all contribute to the unique character of their community. 

As we emerge from what is hopefully the worst of this pandemic, small businesses people who have struggled to keep staff employed over the past three months will open up to help life return to our communities. 

Small businesses go beyond just the pure profit motive that characterises some other parts of the market. They’re often run by locals, which means they’re more invested in the local community. 

And that often means literally investing in community sport, local charities and schools – many of which would struggle without the frequent and generous support of local small businesses. 

In short, they help their communities. Now their communities need to help them.

Small businesses are doing it tough. A third of sole traders have lost three quarters of their revenue, according to research carried out for COSBOA. 

While small businesses will do what they can to revitalise their local communities, they’ll need the support of locals and out-of-town visitors alike to do it. 

The incredible diversity of small businesses — and Australians’ commitment to them — is one of our greatest characteristics. The fact multinational coffee chains haven’t been able to knock local cafes off their perch in Australia is testament to that. 

That’s what COSBOA’s Go Local First campaign is all about. 

Small businesses have made it through their hardest period ever, but they’re not out of the woods. 

If we love the fact we can choose to visit a local greengrocer or butcher over a big supermarket, or seek the advice from a community pharmacy over a pharmacy chain, lets make sure we support those smaller players. 

We need Australians to literally go local first: to choose to shop at local small businesses to keep them alive, so they can keep our communities alive. 

With a third of economic activity coming from small businesses, by backing them we can all play our part in the national economic recovery. 

Small businesses have never needed Australians to “go local first” more than they do now, and neither has the nation’s economy in which we all live, work, and play.

NOW READ: Small businesses emerge as big supporters of local sport: COSBOA report

NOW READ: National belief will help us overcome COVID-19, says COSBOA’s Mark McKenzie


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