8 March 2024

Business confidence on the rise as Riverina Murray calls for better branding to attract workers

| Chris Roe
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Business confidence is on the rise once again.

Business confidence is on the rise once again. Photo: Chris Roe.

While it’s no secret that businesses and consumers have been doing it tough over the past few years, a new report suggests that things could be looking up across the Riverina Murray.

The latest Business Conditions Survey from Business NSW shows that confidence is on the rise after a period of historic lows.

“I’d say that we are cautiously optimistic,” said Business NSW Regional Director Serena Hardwick.

“It’s great to see businesses feeling more positive and one of the things that has led to that increasing confidence is that interest rates are on hold.

“I worry that if that changes, and there is some talk of a potential rate rise in the next 12 months, it could be quite damaging.”

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The Business Confidence Index in our region has risen for the third straight quarter and the optimism looks set to continue into the next quarter.

According to the survey, 95 per cent of businesses are experiencing some impact of the rising cost of living and there’s pressure to increase wages in places where the labour market remains tight.

“Looking at the data across the rest of the state, they have said that the number one impact of cost of living is to their customers who are not spending as much,” she said.

“We’re not seeing that as much in the Riverina Murray, but what it is doing is putting pressure on businesses to increase wages, and that becomes another cost that they’re dealing with at the moment.”

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The Riverina Murray has the lowest intention of cutting staff of any region with less than 10 per cent of businesses indicating cuts over the next three months as opposed to the state average of 18 per cent.

“We are probably the least likely region to see positions being cut, but there was an indication that businesses might look at reducing hours to cater for increased wages,” Ms Hardwick said.

Business NSW Regional Director Serena Hardwick said that better regional branding was needed to attract professionals. Photo: Supplied.

At the top of the list of cost concerns for businesses was insurance.

“We released a report at the end of last year and suggested that the whole system needs to be looked at,” Ms Hardwick said.

“The report actually indicated that 80 per cent of businesses were actually overinsured and we have a system that encourages them to over insure.

“Having said that, the costs are leading a number of businesses into going uninsured and they’re taking huge risks.

Ninety-two per cent of businesses surveyed identified issues related to attracting and retaining skilled workers in their region with the call for better regional branding and reputation being a unique finding for the Riverina Murray.

“Having brand identified as a barrier, really provides an opportunity for the region as I believe this is something we can truly influence,” Ms Hardwick said.

“Businesses felt like that was one of the top reasons why they couldn’t attract a skilled workforce.

“I feel like, for too long the conversation has been – it’s a great place to live – but we need to be a little bit more mature in our approach and articulate that you can have a successful and rewarding career in the region as well.”

It’s an issue that the Riverina Murray team is keen to tackle and work is already underway.

“Our regional team identified amongst a group of regional business leaders, the need for a regional brand and regional prospectus to attract both workforce and investment into the region,” said Ms Hardwick.

You can read the full report on the NSW Business homepage.

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