The power of partnering: How the infrastructure budget could benefit regional businesses

I’ve written previously in SmartCompany about the power of partnering across different levels of government and the business community. It can drive business growth as long as the partnership is right for both parties.

For example, Melbourne remains the home of retail in Australia. It’s synonymous with Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (which ties in with the Spring Racing Carnival), an event that has been running for the past 23 years. This massive event showcases Melbourne as the destination for fashion retail.

It also shines a spotlight on Melbourne-based fashion designers and retailers, both new and established. Shoppers can buy the fashion they saw on the catwalk right there in the city. As an event that also contributes to tourism, Melbourne Spring Fashion Week brings tens of thousands of people to Melbourne with the express purpose of buying clothes. That makes it a success both for the event’s organisers and for the businesses that partner with them to take part. It brings together government and business in a way that seems seamless in a major city like Melbourne.

But what if your business is in regional or rural Australia?

Then it’s even more important to look for ways to partner with other businesses and government to boost shopper numbers in your city or town.

Consider Geelong. This Victorian regional centre is hurting from job losses at Ford and Target, and retail provides most of the jobs in the region. So the All Ford Day and the Geelong Wooden Boat Show provide golden opportunities to boost visitor numbers and, as a result, shopper numbers. Local businesses need to get on board with events like these to reap the benefits.

The same story can be told about the Hunter Valley, where the Lovedale Long Lunch attracts visitors; Canberra, where SummerNats supplements the usual school trips; Adelaide, which relies on Womadelaide for a visitor influx; and Western Australia’s Busselton Jetty Swim, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

And don’t forget the power of social media to help boost your event and your business. I found out about the inaugural Batemans Bay Paddle Challenge when a friend shared it on Facebook. We created a team and used Airbnb to book a house for the weekend, joining around 500 others at the event.

This is another example of government and business working together to boost the region and local businesses. The event showcased the beautiful Clyde River and was sponsored by the Bridge Shopping Plaza, supported by South Coast Seaplanes. Members of state and federal parliament took time to meet and thank all the volunteers and visitors, making everyone feel like they were part of something special.

This group of people had never run an event like this before but they jumped in and did the best they could. The result was a well-run event that is likely to draw in even greater numbers in the years ahead.

So what does this mean for you?

The federal government has promised $75 billion in infrastructure funding over the next decade, and $472 million as a regional growth fund — $200 million of that is set aside for the Building Better Regions program. There’s a new infrastructure and projects financing agency to help assess infrastructure project choices, and the regional investment corporation, which is looking to help distribute $4 billion in concessional loans.

Regional businesses need to unleash their creativity and jump on these opportunities for funding and partnering. Get together with other businesses or brainstorm with your own team to see what you can come up with to attract visitors and shoppers to your region. You’d be amazed at the results you could achieve if you just give it a try.

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