What it means to be a small-business-friendly council

Published: 11th October 2021

It’s no surprise that businesses are attracted to local government areas where it’s easy to operate and there is support for sustained growth.

The LGAQ believes that small businesses make a vital contribution to the social and economic prosperity of communities, creating employment, providing essential goods and services, and making local government areas attractive places to live and visit.

The Small Business Friendly Councils (SBFC) initiative is about recognising and encouraging councils across Queensland in their efforts to enable small businesses to thrive in their local community, and to recover and build resilience following disasters and other economic impacts.

So far, 15 councils have pledged their support for their small business communities, by signing the SBFC charter and it’s gaining momentum with more councils ready to sign up.

Developed in NSW, the program has since been adopted in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and now Queensland.

The LGAQ became aware of the Small Business Friendly Councils program when our sister organisation LGNSW worked with the NSW Small Business Commissioner to introduce the program back in 2017.

We heard of the successes from our NSW counterparts and wanted to be on the front foot when the program was produced. We connected early with the Queensland Small Business Commissioner’s office and worked together to develop a program that councils could be attracted to sign up for.

Ipswich is a member of the Small Business Friendly Councils initiative

Ipswich is a member of the Small Business Friendly Councils initiative

What are the benefits?

Signing up to the SBFC charter marks the start of a collaborative journey between councils, their small businesses (typically represented by the local chambers of commerce) and the Queensland Small Business Commissioner. The Commissioner describes it as an ‘SBFC family’—and for good reason. It is an opportunity to exchange good ideas and benefit from the experiences of others.

Already small businesses are benefiting from their local councils’ commitment to becoming small business friendly. From simplifying and shortening a business licence application process from six weeks down to a few days (Ipswich) to introducing gift cards that are redeemable by shopping at local businesses in the region (Isaac and Fraser Coast), it’s all about working together to find new ways for local businesses to thrive.

Why should a council become a SBFC?

Local small businesses don’t just make a vital economic contribution to their region, they bring vitality and personality to their communities. Small business friendly councils demonstrate their recognition of this and the value their small businesses represent.

Becoming small business friendly is about joining a family of like-minded councils to inspire each other with ideas, motivate each other with their successes, and attract vibrant and prosperous businesses into their regions by making it easier to do business through faster decision-making, fast or on-time payments, simplified administration, access to clear information and greater certainty. The ethos of the SBFC family was captured during the latest lockdown where the Small Business Friendly Councils from across the state mobilised to share ways in which councils could help their local small businesses. This is the power of collaboration—the hallmark of the SBFC initiative.

What’s planned next for the initiative?

The first step established a network of early adopters who understood the vision and wanted to get behind it. The inaugural SBFC conference on 30 April showcased what it meant to be small business friendly and to strengthen the foundations of the SBFC network.

We are now in the process of further celebrating and promoting the successes already achieved by our SBFCs to inspire and motivate other councils across Queensland. To support the ongoing development and achievements of SBFCs, we are now setting up communities of practice (CoPs) to enable peer learning and collaboration on issues such as procurement, place-making, responsiveness, and red tape reduction. Each community of practice will serve as an online ecosystem and provide the opportunity for SBFCs to work together to enhance local capability through networking and sharing of knowledge and experiences.

Barcoo is a member of the SBFC initative

Barcoo is a member of the SBFC initative

How does my council get involved?

Find out more about the Small Business Friendly Councils initiative by visiting the website. Looking after this initiative at the LGAQ is Paul Cranch—Lead for Trade and Investment, who is happy to be contacted with queries. You can also contact Principal Project Officer Les Retford on 0436 917 322 or email Les.Retford@desbt.qld.gov.au.

Councils that are part of the SBFC family

  • Ipswich City Council
  • Scenic Rim Regional Council
  • Gympie Regional Council
  • Mackay Regional Council
  • Whitsunday Regional Council
  • Toowoomba Regional Council
  • Cairns Regional Council
  • Tablelands Regional Council
  • Somerset Regional Council 
  • Barcoo Shire Council
  • South Burnett Regional Council
  • Southern Downs Regional Council
  • Isaac Regional Council
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council
  • Fraser Coast Regional Council