Business doing it tough: Hats off to those having a go!


The Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce NT takes a look at what works and what doesn’t in our town’s economy. She is writing in our Rest & Reflection series to which we have asked people to contribute who make a difference to The Alice.
The year 2016 began with businesses in the regions doing it tough. Uncertainty can cause problems for business owners, as it is hard to plan for staffing levels if you don’t know what’s on the horizon.
Staffing is the biggest issue for employers in Alice Springs, and most resort to attracting skilled staff from overseas.  Why is it so hard to get skilled workers in Alice (or any NT regional town)?  Why can’t we attract them?
The Chamber has participated in many workers expos around Australia, especially in towns where large manufacturing plants were closing, trying to entice the workers to the Territory. However, it seems family has a stronger pull than experiencing a new adventure in another state or territory.
Businesses have more luck in attracting migrant workers.  This practice has two beneficial outcomes: The first is giving the business confidence of knowing they have the worker for a certain period of time. The second is, they often bring their families which enriches the multi cultural fabric of our community.
p2348 Kilgariff homes 1The construction industry is still struggling with the Indigenous participation on construction projects policy.
While most appreciate the sentiment and reasoning behind the policy, consultation and execution of the policy was poor.  Trying to attract and retain 30% Indigenous employment on a project is proving to be difficult for most businesses. And the costs associated with training and compliance — red tape  – are high.
KPMG was eventually contracted to consult with industry on their concerns and it will be interesting to hear what their findings and recommendations are.
The previous government handed down a very generous budget for business in May, and the most welcoming scheme was the “tradies scheme”.
It gave consumers the opportunity of doing home maintenance and renovations at a discounted rate, and the small businesses reaped the rewards.
Not long after the scheme was announced, Alice experienced freak hail storms which caused widespread damage to businesses and residential properties.
Assessors were flown in to provide recommendations for insurance purposes, and this provided another source of work for the trades.
The new government has reintroduced an incentive for first home buyers which are now given the housing market a nudge. Hopefully this will entice the younger families to implant their roots in Alice.
This incentive also opens up opportunities for the small business tradies, renovating the older homes.
When you think about all the risks associated with running a business, I often wonder why they do it!
There’s compliance, the fair work act, legislation, staff, rent, long hours, no work life balance and the risk of failure!  There is so much more to lose when you are the top dog.
You have the threat of losing your business, your house, your income, as well as carrying the guilt of sacking staff who are relying on you for their income to support their families.
There are businesses that have done the hard yards, and are now reaping the rewards, but I still see businesses who struggle every day.  All I can say is, hats off to all of you!
You are the people who hire and train our children, keep our economy going, and give the community of Alice Springs the services and lifestyle we have come to enjoy.
Wishing everyone a most prosperous 2017!


  1. @ Happy Traveller: Your comment about it not being “rocket science” gives the impression that cheap flights is all it needs.
    I think that is part of the problem but there also needs to be a reason to come here as we are competing with many other destinations for visitors and workers.
    What substantial new attraction has been established in Alice Springs in the past 15 years? Probably count them on one hand. But then again, it’s not “rocket surgery”.

  2. It has nothing to do with airfares. I has a lot to do with the cost of living. Rent is ridiculous, housing is unaffordable even with the first home buyers stamp duty and our social problems.
    Other states offer cheaper housing and cost of living. People here tend to be greedy and because the mentality is there is nowhere else for to go, so we can charge what we want.
    Also please do not forget the numerous businesses which have been underpaying their workers.
    They like the backpackers and the foreigners as they are not aware of their rights. They are too scared to speak up.
    Also, the Asians, Africans and the New Zealanders are sending large amount of money home and drain the town. They are here to help their families back home.
    I’m sure there would be a lot more people come to the town if the social problems were under control, but nobody seems to want to fix it as it is a money making concern.


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