Council boss admits 'we can do more' to help CBD
LISMORE'S new general manager Shelley Oldham has revealed she is committed to finding solutions for the town's flailing CBD.
When she took on the top job at Lismore City Council in October 2018, Ms Oldham said she was working hard with the NSW Government on what she called, "the balancing of the books”, regarding monies owed to the council.
She has since spoken exclusively with The Northern Star on how the council plans to help businesses survive and thrive in Lismore.
Ms Oldham said the council understood the challenges Lismore's retailers were facing.
She said while retailers globally were struggling, the council acknowledged for a regional location the issues impacting bricks-and-mortar retailers were even more challenging.
"To this end we are having regular conversations with the State Government to ensure they are aware of the need for economic stimulation in the area,”she said.
"Post-election, these conversations will shape into plans and requests for investment.”
Ms Oldham said the council was involved a range of other strategies to boost the town's economic prosperity, including working with the Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner and Service NSW to launch the Easy to do Business program, which streamlines the process to help people establish a new business faster.
"We are working with Business Connect to provide free planning and strategic advice for businesses,” she said.
"As well as partnering with the Australian Small Business Advisory Services to provide subsidised training in digital marketing.”
The big issue -- rates
In answer to criticism of Lismore CBD rates, which are nearly 10 times greater than Ballina rates, Ms Oldham said she would be asking the council to look at the matter.
"In my first month here Council provided $246,400 in financial assistance to inner-CBD business ratepayers, but I think we can do more,” she said.
In July 2018 it was reported for every $100,000 of land value in the Lismore CBD a business owner pays $7378.30, compared with Ballina business owners who are up for just $755.81.
CBD shop vacancies
Ms Oldham said she was positive about Lismore's CBD retail recovery.
"I am still seeing new businesses open and thrive in Lismore and our Lismore CBD shopfront vacancy rate continues to drop with the latest figure at 8.57 percent,” she said.
"This is now on par with where we were pre-flood.”
Ms Oldham said a vacancy rate of 6 to 8 per cent was considered healthy for a CBD to encourage movement, renovation or expansion, and ensure sufficient space for new businesses to establish.
"Our CBD is beginning to adapt and change and I see niche businesses popping up that are helping to create a new vibrancy and culture in our downtown area,” she said.,
"Building on that culture and creating a point of difference for people to visit and spend time in our CBD is really essential moving forward.”
Ms Oldham said the Lismore Business Promotion Program was an annual program that provided essential marketing and promotion to bring new visitors to Lismore from both the Northern Rivers and further afield.
"We are putting lots of energy into building Lismore's credentials as a regional city and the first tangible outcome of this work is being delivered through major sporting events at our upgraded facilities,”she said.
"These facilities are also actively being marketed to increase add-on visitors through sports training, conferences and other events.”
Tell us what action the council needs to take
If you have a business in Lismore, tell us what you feel the council should be doing to assist making the town more viable via firstname.lastname@example.org