The small country town opening global doors
Head 520 kilometres south-west of Sydney and you’ll find an emerging powerhouse of connected and thriving businesses. Despite having a population of just 3,200, Lockhart Shire entrepreneurs are fired up to outperform city-based competitors and step onto a global stage. In fact, the region is an incubator for small business.
Bernard Salt addresses benchmarks for regional prosperity and social cohesion in a recent Wagga Wagga presentation. Lockhart leads the way with the most business owners.
More than 20 per cent of Lockhart Shire’s workforce identifies as owning their own business – be it farming, retail, healthcare, hospitality or professional services – they are no strangers to developing, nurturing and fostering local business growth.
With affordable shopfront opportunities and industrial land up for grabs, its fast NBN access is helping many business owners and even employees (like Cathy Cullen who works for her Sydney employer from her home in Lockhart) make their country change a smooth transition without barriers to success.
A new butcher and bakery are the latest to take advantage of Lockhart Shire’s strong economic development, while hundreds of other businesses are tapping into digital working platforms, payment gateways and devices, and online communication channels to establish and grow their business in the country.
Artist draws on country charm and modern technology to deliver digital art
As a digital artist, Rachel Viski relies on technology to run her business. Not only does she need the software to create her designs, but the cloud based creative, accounting, communication and project management applications help her to collaborate with other service providers and clients and maintain automation and efficiency in her business.
“Apart from my Adobe subscription, it’s online video conferencing and file sharing applications that really drive the business. Communication and file storage is everything!” she tells us.
Her digital model has meant she can also work away from her premises, which she does some days to break the solitude that can come with working remotely.
“Throughout my career, I have always worked in an open plan office, surrounded by people. At the time, the noise and some people’s quirks could be annoying, but now that I’m removed from that environment, I do find I miss the water cooler banter some days. But I’ve found a way to feel like I’m a part of a community’s buzz by packing up the laptop and taking myself into Wagga. It’s a 25-minute drive and I sit in a coffee shop and work away, while watching everyone else go about their day. It keeps me motivated. It’s funny, I feel more accountable when there are other people around!”
When you lose the long commutes, sky-high mortgages and congested highways, and you set up your home or business in an area with low rates, low unemployment, an increasing population, and above average pay – it’s easy to see how it pays to become a country changer.
Lockhart Shire offers families and businesses the chance to establish themselves, grow through experiences and connections, and support the local community that supports them.
Rachel plays an active role in the community, and her work has impacted many. Through her artwork in the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital’s Children’s Ward (in the dedicated 240m2 space as part of the $282 million redevelopment) and her work at Minta Viski, Rachel was awarded Lockhart Shire Council’s Young Entrepreneur at the 2018 Business Excellence Awards. And her pursuance of community continues!
Her current focus is on the business scene in The Rock, one of the towns within the Lockhart Shire. “I’d like to work towards activating a space somewhere for the community to operate out of commercially. We have a Main Street but the office space is limited with much of it dedicated to residential housing. With 45,000 people climbing The Rock Hill annually, extra services in the main street could supplement this tourism and inject some funds into the local economy.”
One way Rachel is looking to help create this change is through a business group she is looking to establish.
“I believe that collectively we can do great things, and that an inclusive, accessible business group can assist in activating the local economy further. The primary objective would be to share resources and ideas, and plan how we can create an effective strategy to operate together as the shire grows in the future.”
I’m also working closely with The Rock Progress Association, Lockhart Shire Council and other businesses in The Rock to get this off the ground. It’s exciting to see it take shape!
Location a help, not a hindrance
For Michelle Bailey, the move from her Werribee home in Melbourne, to The Rock in Lockhart Shire, wasn’t one to take lightly. She had a well-established edible image business that required on-time and perfectly intact deliveries – and she had many clients counting on Custom Icing for their show-stopping celebrations.
All worries were quickly abolished when Michelle realised she was getting better service and convenience as a business owner, than she ever did in the city.
“I find that the speed and reliability of the internet connection here is better than what I could access when we were located in Melbourne. It was always slow and often dropped out, which made running an online business very challenging. The fixed line NBN is much more reliable here.
“When you’ve got fast access to the internet, living in a small-town of 1000 people really has no negative impact on your business.”
Michelle says there’s a clear positive impact however, citing reduced overheads as a considerable win for the business.
Remote working has built an award-winning empire for this entrepreneur
Jo Palmer is the 2019 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner for her role in connecting work opportunities with hundreds of talented professionals and small businesses in regional Australia.
Run from her small farm, Jo said living in a country town has had zero negative impacts on her business Pointer Remote Roles, and instead, has helped her grow her profile as a regional and rural business woman.
“There is no way I would have been able to grow my business at the rate I have if I lived in the city. Awards like the AgriFuture’s Rural Women’s Award also wouldn’t have been an option for me if I wasn’t living rurally. I have had so many fantastic opportunities open up for me, living and working here. I hope more people see the potential that awaits them in Lockhart Shire.”
The next venture for Jo will be to grow her online portal so more regional and rural residents can upskill and take on remote working roles.
Want to see how a country change to Lockhart Shire could help you grow? Take a look at the New South Wales Government’s Investment Attraction Packages and speak to a Country Change representative. Don’t wait another year – you’ll just wish you did it sooner.