Industry experts say there's hope in the region's business future, not the doom and gloom painted by recent ABS figures.
Industry experts say there's hope in the region's business future, not the doom and gloom painted by recent ABS figures. Renee Pilcher

Business leaders shoot down 'sensational' closure numbers

SHOCK figures on the number of Gympie businesses that have closed in the past four years need to be considered "in context” and may be "natural attrition”, regional business leaders said yesterday.

Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Tony Goodman and economic development advocate Kerren Smith have questioned the finer points of yesterday's report that 2040 local businesses shut up shop in the past four years.

Mr Goodman said the figures, which are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, may be less about economic issues and more natural attrition.

Tony Goodman is getting ready for this year's Winter on Mary festival.
Tony Goodman. Rowan Schindler

"I've always heard any business has an 80 per cent failure rate in the first year,” he said.

"If the first five years don't get you, the next five will.

"It's a tough gig.”

Although the numbers might look "sensational”, he pointed to data from Economyid (itself sourced from the ABS) which shows the region had 35 more businesses registered in 2017 than 2014.

And this balanced the equation, he said.

"To make up for that shortfall (of closing businesses), there's more than enough to take it up.”

Goldfields Plaza
Goldfields Plaza Contributed

The biggest growth was in health care and social assistance, which had 47 new registrations.

Retail took the biggest hit, down 54.

Mr Goodman said this business growth did not mean there was no concern about the economy, which was "biting” right now.

"It's probably tougher at the moment... not just in Gympie but right across Australia.”

Mr Smith, who manages Smith Global and is chairman of the group advising the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils, said the closure figures needed to be considered in context.

Kerren and Marcia Smith Gympie high reuion dinner
Kerren Smith with his wife Marcia.

"If it was businesses operating here for 10 years that are closing, you'd have me concerned,” he said.

The numbers may look shocking but you've got to segment them.

He some of those businesses may have never been anything more than someone registering an ABN without ever using it.

"It's easy to open a business. It's harder to keep one operating,” Mr Smith said.

It was this detail, he said, that should be focussed on.

"What you've got to do is take the businesses we've got now.”

The belief the region's economic saviour would arrive in the form of a large business also needed a reality check.

GOODBYE: Madhouse Discounts closed their doors after nine years at the Gympie Central Shopping Complex. Renee Albrecht
Gympie Central. Contributed

And no-one was "knocking down” the door to use his own industrial land.

"They're not floating around out there,” he said.

Nor would industrial businesses arrive without being presented with a clear, competitive reason why Gympie was the best place for them to set up shop.

"What have we got to attract business and industry here?

"Lifestyle is about nine or 12 spots down on their list.

"You've got to leverage off the industry of the future, like timber.”