The Cobden district is battling on the back of poor milk prices and the St Patrick’s Day fires and it is no surprise that the town’s businesses are feeling the pinch.
But Cobden is fighting back. The town’s business network is pushing for funding to appoint a business development officer to help traders bounce back.
The town’s business network is pushing for funding to appoint a business development officer to help traders bounce back.
Cobden Business Network’s Kelvin White said the role would provide a dedicated person to bring businesses together, act as a coach, share ideas and provide practical support.
“Much more needs to be done urgently to ensure the short-term and long-term viability of the Cobden district economy,” he said.
“While the focus would initially be on supporting retailers and tradespeople, the inextricable link between the farming and business community would become even stronger as networks form.”
Mr White said even before the March fires, depressed milk prices had “drastically reduced” farmers’ spending capacity, flowing on to businesses’ bottom lines.
“The fires worsened the situation – with those farmers having no income at all, businesses being asked to support the fire-impacted farmers and residents and potential visitors virtually warned to stay out of Cobden for four to six weeks due to dangers of lingering peat smoke,” he said.
“The district needs a dedicated and skilled person to provide strategies and confidence for business and farmers at all levels.”
Funding has been sought from a variety of sources, including the South West Victorian Bushfire Appeal, the Cobden and Districts Community Bank and the state government’s Pick My Project campaign.
Mr White said the role would support the business network’s 64 retail, trade and service provider members.
Ritchies IGA manager Paul “Herm” Brebner said local businesses needed practical support, “not someone sitting behind a desk, but actually getting out there”.
“Everything seems to be catching up with people in the last two months. The last two months seem to be the worst it’s been,” he said.
Mr Brebner said more support was also needed from dairy processors.
“It was a double whammy. I think whether it be any of the milk factories… they have to sit down closely with the people who produce their milk and work out a scheme that can help them,” he said.
“They can sit in their offices and say they’ve made X amount of dollars, but at the end of the day if they don’t have the farmers they’ve got nobody, and we’re the same.”
Corangamite Shire is also hosting crisis management workshops next week for small businesses doing it tough.
Mayor Jo Beard said the sessions would help businesses assess their financial position and give financial tips.
Small Business Victoria is offering free, private follow up appointments and rural financial counsellors will also be in attendance.
A session will be held at Terang Civic Hall on Monday, August, 27 from 7.30am-9am and Cobden Civic Hall on Tuesday, August 28 from 7.30am-9am.
For more information or to register, call 5593 7100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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