Three Business Enterprise Centres in regional areas have each received $200,000 government grants to provide coaching and mentoring to small businesses, but it’s unknown whether other BECs will receive similar support.
The funding, announced by Small Business Minister Chris Bowen, has been allocated under the federal government’s Small Business Advisory Services (SBAS) program.
The three BECs are the Penrith City and District Business Advisory Centre in NSW, the Southern Success BEC in southern Adelaide and the Advance Cairns BEC.
BECs aim to be recognised as the first and best point of contact for small business operators seeking business information, advice and guidance.
Every BEC is part of a national network supported by not-for-profit organisation BEC Australia, whose primary role is to grow the network and provide representation on behalf of its members.
Bowen said in a statement the $200,000 grants for the aforementioned BECs will help fill a gap in advisory services to small businesses in each of the regions.
“The small businesses in each of these regions are extremely diverse,” Bowen said.
“[They operate] across a broad spectrum of activity from farming to construction and service industries and engineering and electrical equipment manufacturing.”
Bowen said business conditions remain complex for small businesses in regional Australia, so there is an unmet demand for this sort of support.
“The strong Australian dollar… and the rapid growth of new business models like eCommerce simply underscore the need for improved and new business management skills,” he said.
“The SBAS program has provided a valuable source of assistance to strengthen small business management practices.”
Bill Kyriakopoulos, a spokesman for the minister, told StartupSmart the BECs that received grants have a demonstrated capability, having provided services under the SBAS program over a number of years.
“Since it was introduced in the 2008-09 budget, SBAS has provided over 392,000 business services to more than 207,000 small businesses,” Kyriakopoulos says.
“In the most recent round, the government has awarded nearly $12 million to 52 service providers who are delivering 62 projects across Australia.”
The Penrith City and District Advisory Centre has provided 9,460 services, helping around 4,500 businesses, while Southern Success has helped 2,264 businesses with almost 6,000 services.
Meanwhile, in the two years since it began providing SBAS services in Queensland’s north, the Advance Cairns BEC has provided almost 500 individual services to around 250 businesses.
The funding for these centres is the latest announcement Bowen has made in his capacity as Small Business Minister since he was appointed to the role in early February.