Small businesses need help as well

Published: The Mercury 28th May 2024.

There is no doubt that small businesses are doing it tough at the moment. The growing number of vacant shops is an obvious sign with many more just scraping by.

Now more than ever it is vital the State Government recognises this and assists where possible. But why help small businesses isn’t the Government better off focusing on health and housing?

While it is true that health and housing should be a focus, what is also true is that all levels of Government need the revenue to pay for such services and small businesses are great contributors. It is in everyone’s interest that as many as possible survive and prosper.

In Tasmania over 85% of businesses employ 5 or less people, this is not the big end of town here, but more often than not it appears big businesses are getting the most assistance and incentives.

Small businesses are the heart and soul of this state not just for their economic value but for their social value. Put simply “the contribution of small business to this state cannot be overstated”.

Whilst the economic benefits vibrant small businesses bring to this state are very important, also of great worth are their contribution to Diversity and Social Cohesion.

When it comes to Diversity, small businesses enrich our local communities by offering products and services that reflect the unique identities and cultures that make up our society.

By reflecting the diversity of their communities, they contribute to a sense of inclusion and belonging for all Tasmanians. Diverse small businesses can serve as role models and mentors for aspiring entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, inspiring the next generation of business leaders.

Regarding Social Cohesion, small businesses cultivate social connections and strengthen community bonds, beyond mere financial transactions. They serve as gathering places where people come together, make connections and friendships while building a sense of community.

Whether it’s the friendly banter with the local butcher or the topical conversations at the newsagent or hairdresser, these exchanges provide vital social interactions for many people in the community. The small retail shop or cafe often gives many young people their first job, a taste of financial independence and a sense of purpose.

If we keep putting imposts on small businesses by unfair taxes, endless red tape and removing parking we will see more closures. One such tax that has made headlines recently is the insurance tax, this year the State Government will collect nearly $140 million, and this is growing.

Small businesses do not mind paying their fair share, but we need a fairer system where honest hard work and the value they add to their local communities is rewarded not hampered.

Unfortunately, small businesses face numerous other challenges, from the cost of living crisis, rising rents to fierce competition from online retailers, the road to success is anything but easy.

The Confederation of Greater Hobart Business is calling on all levels of Government to stop putting extra burdens on small businesses and let them get on with the job of offering great goods and services, providing employment, growing the economy, and most of all adding value to their local communities.

Edwin Johnstone is a long term Hobart small business owner and Chair of the Confederation of Greater Hobart Business.