How Noosa businesses have weathered COVID-19
Noosa’s working ranks have taken around a 2100 job hit with 64 per cent of businesses surveyed by council revealing they have had to shed staff.
However Noosa Council said almost 80 per cent remained open during the most restrictive period of the global COVID-19 pandemic, despite a savage drop in turnover.
Council received 689 responses to its Noosa Business Roundtable survey, conducted between May 29 and June 22 with 83 per cent reporting a drop in turnover with around half experiencing a fall in revenue of more than 60 per cent.
Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart said the results “certainly paint a devastating picture and indicate how challenging it is for our business owners”.
Cr Stewart said the findings were a sobering reminder of how COVID-19 hit the local economy and the potential risks associated with any future lockdowns, with most business owners experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.
The survey found local businesses were focused on doing what they could to remain viable with about a third of the businesses managing to avoid cutting staff.
Council economic development manager Anthony Dow said the results provided critical baseline data to shape recovery programs, including the revelation that 65 per cent had taken up the JobKeeper assistance package or secured rent relief from landlords.
However the survey revealed it was not all doom and gloom, with about 44 per cent finding opportunities to grow their business while about a third of respondents said they were exploring digital initiatives such as apps or e-commerce.
“The honest feedback is appreciated and gives us the ability to better understand the current climate and help focus our representation to state and federal politicians,” Mr Dow said.
“We really want all business operators to provide feedback so we can properly gauge how the economy is progressing.”
Cooroy Chamber of Commerce president Chris Bell said his pool safety inspection service had been just as busy, if not busier, during the pandemic but his sitution contrasted starkly with other members.
“There’s a number who are suffering big time and I think maybe a few of them won’t even be back again to tell you the truth,” Mr Bell said.
“That’s why we as a chamber extended our membership without charge. You can imagine putting your hand out for membership fees in July and August ... it wouldn’t be an easy task.”
The president praised the proactive stance by Noosa Council in instigating the business roundtable and thought it was the envy of other councils who were trying to catch up with its lead.
Mr Bell said local businesses had agreed to continue the meetings with council less frequently but on a regular basis, “once COVID-19 is in the history books”.
There are also plans for council to conduct the survey quarterly to monitor the ongoing impacts of the global pandemic and to help shape recovery programs and future advocacy.
Cr Stewart said her council was committed to helping all sectors recover.
“With our nine-point recovery plan, the top priority is to help the Noosa economy to revive and thrive,” she said.
“We have delivered a number of initiatives in the council budget to generate jobs and boost economic activity and we’ll continue to listen to operators and assist where we can.”