Explore the Coffs Coast Growers’ Market in the heart of the CBD today.
Explore the Coffs Coast Growers’ Market in the heart of the CBD today. Bruce Thomas

EDU is growing local business

COFFS Harbour City Council’s Economic Development Unit has an annual budget of just over $1 million, but economic development manager Jenny Oloman says a large chunk of that is taken up by repayments of the loan for redevelopment of the city centre.

That project saw the former City Centre Mall replaced by a reopened east-west traffic link in Harbour Drive, shade sails and a smaller pedestrian plaza, the City Square, which houses the weekly Thursday Coffs Coast Growers’ Market and alfresco cafes.

The five-member EDU also looks after the Growers’ Market and Ms Oloman said this was now self-funding and returned a modest profit to the council, which was spent on promotion, educational activities and City Centre improvements.

The market was introduced to support the city council’s rural settlement strategy, encourage sustainability and improve returns for local farmers.

The EDU, which is responsible for city centre marketing, also supports the Coffs Harbour International Buskers’ and Comedy Festival to the tune of $25,000 a year with the rest of the $100,000 budget for the event picked up by sponsors.

The council also owns this event, which Ms Oloman said attracted interest from across Australia and overseas.

The Economic Development Unit, which is also the council’s events co-ordination unit, works in partnership with the council’s Sports Unit.

The Buy Local project, initiated by Palms Shopping manager Linda Saunders last year and handed over to the EDU on her retirement, is unlikely to be taken up by the unit, Ms Oloman said.

She said research had shown that appeals to buy local to support jobs for the next generation were ineffective and what worked for shoppers were discounts and vouchers along the lines of the supermarket chains’ petrol vouchers or coffee shop loyalty cards which offered regular customers one free cup of coffee for every 10 they bought.

The council’s director of City Services, Ben Lawson, said the EDU had a three-pronged responsibility which was to attract new business to the city, grow existing businesses in the city and improve the liveability of the city.

He said one of the most successful projects to date had been the partnership with the Southern Cross University to secure the city an early place on the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

Asked about council plans to help local businesses discover, explore and make the best use of the digital opportunities available, he said those plans were not yet at a stage where they could be publicised.

EDU business development officer Barry Davis, who said 80% of Australian business was small business, said Coffs Harbour already had ‘30 or 40 good little IT businesses’ which did not market locally but had clients worldwide.

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