It's tough times for Bundy businesses
ANOTHER Bundaberg business is closing its doors and says the region is in the grips of an economic downturn.
Stephen and Le-isa Pratt opened At Home on Quay St four years ago.
The business, which sells unique homewares including dining settings, bookcases, decor and giftware, will close by the end of August.
Mr Pratt has blamed a lack of support from the council as part of the reason for his store's closure and said more needed to be done to boost the local economic outlook.
He said in early May local businesses saw an increase in sales but he was concerned that activity would again drop off in the near future.
The other reason Mr Pratt said he was walking away was because agreements couldn't be met between himself and the premise's landlord.
Mr Pratt believes there is limited growth in Bundaberg because as one new businesses opens, another closes in its place.
He has also had a swipe at Bundaberg Regional Council, who he believes puts too much pressure on local businesses with too many "loop holes to jump through".
"We have one of the highest unemployment levels around the place and the economy is just not what it should be," he said.
"I've spoken to so many businesses around the block which are on the verge of closing down."
Mr Pratt did attempt to sell his furniture business with no luck, leaving him with no choice.
"All the other furniture places we've approached have said they are doing it that tough already," he said.
"So why would they go into new business?"
The decision to close the family-owned business was made less than a month ago.
Mr Pratt has met with Mayor Jack Dempsey and understands he is trying to do something to help small business. However, Mr Pratt wants things "ramped up soon" before more small to medium-businesses follow in his steps.
"Council needs to get on board to get this economy going," he said.
"Jack is the one who is trying to get employment going and they need to be helping businesses, not hindering them with high fees."
He believes Bundaberg as a destination has a lot to offer and wants the council to act now to stimulate the town.
Since announcing At Home was closing down, Mr Pratt said business was booming, with everything walking out the door. He said it was a shame the support wasn't there earlier. "We've had 3000 to 5000 people through the doors in the last few weeks," he said.
"On a weekend you can't move in here."
Businesses to close their doors this year in Bundaberg include: Ray's Outdoors, Bundaberg Hobbies and Toys, Metro Tiles, JX Leathergoods, Factory, ICE, BMAC, Loot, and RT Edwards, Sizzler, Cool Banana's, Camit and Kurtz Transport, to name a few.
- Ray's Outdoors
- Metro Tiles
- JX Leathergoods
- RT Edwards
- Cool Banana's
Council doing all it can
BUNDABERG Regional Council rejects any assertion it is not doing its bit to stimulate the local economy.
Mayor Jack Dempsey said the council had been the major driver of economic growth across the region.
The past two budgets have delivered $255 million in capital projects, which is having a direct influence on growing job opportunities while maintaining existing workforce numbers locally.
He said the council was engaged in a $16 million CBD redevelopment program and this financial year had allocated $8 million to the project and the redevelopment could not be achieved overnight.
"We have a major project team engaged on the redevelopment and they are liaising with a Community Reference Group comprised of local traders and businesspeople who are being informed every step of the way," he said.
"Council cannot be responsible for the business decision of traders whether to open or close their doors. This is usually driven by public demand and business opportunity.
"While our CBD is important, council has the responsibility of ensuring the economic activity right across the region."
Cr Dempsey said $7 million had just been allocated to the Burnett Heads Streetscape redevelopment project, while Gin Gin was also in line for a further streetscape upgrade to continue the economic momentum in that community.
"Council has poured enormous resources into the region through the Rubyanna and Bundaberg Multiplex projects. We have funded more than $80 million of this work and I firmly believe this equates to stimulating the economy.
"Our Open for Development program, which offers incentives to investors and developers, has attracted around $180 million in projects. Specifically, this program provides 100% discount for development in the Bundaberg CBD and 50% discounts for long-term employment-generating development.
"The negative claims by Mr Pratt are at odds with what council is hearing across the region. Confidence is high, investment is strong and projects are identified well into future months and years.
"Mr Pratt should also take his concerns to his State and Federal Members. Carrying the burden of stimulating the local economy, creating jobs and driving development is not solely the responsibility of council.
"When it comes to understanding just who controls the purse strings people should realise that out of the taxation pie the Federal Government takes 80%, the State Government 16% and council less than 4%."
Bundaberg Discount Furniture owner Leigh Goodwin agreed, saying the economy seemed in good condition to him.
Mr Goodwin has owned and operated the furniture store in the same location for 20 years and said it slowed a few years back but seemed steady now.
"It's all progress," he said. "You have to appeal to what the community wants, specialising in a certain product makes that hard."
He believed good service was still the key to bringing repeat business.
Chamber president says council not to blame
THE responsibility of business growth doesn't fall on the council, according to Bundaberg and District Chamber of Commerce president Yale Morgan.
Mr Morgan said the short answer was no when asked if he thought Bundaberg was struggling economically.
He said some areas, retail in particular, were finding it challenging but as a whole Bundaberg business was looking "vibrant".
At the end of last month reports indicated the area recorded a 5% economic growth, Mr Morgan said.
Ultimately, it came down to the type of business you were running as to how well it did, he said.
"Household and homewares stores have dominant bigger players, which makes it harder for the independents," he said.
He remains "optimistic" about the economic environment in Bundaberg and said it wasn't up to the council to keep businesses afloat.
"The council's job is to attract business to the area," Mr Morgan said.
"With the dropping of fees, the council has helped bring in the big players.
"It's not council's responsibility to make businesses grow, it's to make sure they don't make it hard for them to come in and set up."