Small business in top gear
THE drive to help small businesses is stepping up, as both Federal and State governments develop new programs to help guide and sustain entrepreneurs on the North Coast and beyond.
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, through its arm AusIndustry, has recently run a Road Show through the region, and set up a help line to support small businesses.
And there are plenty of people taking advantage of what is being offered.
Ian Nielsen, CEO of UAT Pacific, said a COMET grant had helped the firm with its research and development in its early days.
The company, which manufactures specialist dredging machinery, had found AusIndustry a 'great support service', Mr Nielsen said.
“I would advise anyone who has a business in start-up mode to approach them.”
AusIndustry is the Federal Government's principal business program delivery division.
It runs more than 30 business programs, including innovation grants, tax and duty concessions, small business development guides, industry support and venture capital and delivers about $2 billion to more than 10,000 businesses and 80,000 individuals every year.
Kimberley Group in Ballina is one company to have benefited hugely from AusIndustry's help.
Kimberley is the Australian market leader in 'off-road accommodation'- caravans and Cruisers - and has expanded hugely since Bruce Loxton bought it in 2003 and set about realising his vision to make it a serious player on the international stage.
AusIndustry, he said, helped with Kimberley's export drive by assisting its products to become compliant with the US National Highway Authority's stringent standards.
“AusIndustry helped us to smooth the administrative process,” Mr Loxton said. “We would not have been able to export in any numbers without having the compliance code.
“It also gives American customers confidence in us and opens up a large part of the world for our products. Countries such as Saudi Arabia see that we have US certification and that is the ultimate symbol of quality assurance for them.”
Certification was still not an easy path, Mr Loxton said. He travelled to Washington DC six times and the process took 18 months.
But without AusIndustry's help, it would have been much harder and time-consuming, he said.
“AusIndustry facilitated the process by helping with all the paperwork, leaving us to get on with what we do best, which is to manufacture,” he said.
A side benefit of the US compliance was that Kimberley raised its game, Mr Loxton said.
“The process made us lift our internal processes and quality no end. We couldn't risk anything going wrong.”
A further benefit of contact with AusIndustry was the Research and Development tax offset, Mr Loxton said, which Kimberley was advised about and as a consequence was able to reduce its taxable income by the percentage it invested in R&D, he said.
“AusIndustry is a Federal initiative, but they do the best they can for you on a local basis,” he said.
AusIndustry also administers a scheme known as Tradex, Mr Loxton said, which is 'very, very good' for small businesses.
Through it, exporters can import items they need and not immediately pay Customs duty and GST.
“It doesn't save me any money, but it simplifies the process and saves a lot of time,” he said.
For information, call AusIndustry's Business Support Line on 1800 77 7275.