Murraylands businesses want cheaper power, skilled workers

Electricity prices and skills shortages are among the main concerns for businesses in the Murraylands, Riverland and Mount Barker, a Business SA survey has revealed.

The results of the 2018 Regional Voice survey, based on feedback from 450 businesses, were revealed at a Business SA event in Murray Bridge last Wednesday.

Company tax, water costs and labour costs, including penalty rates, were also among the key issues highlighted.

On the flip side, however, four in every 10 businesses said they had been unable to attract employees with the right skills, even when offering competitive pay rates, often because workers preferred to base themselves in Adelaide.

Businesses wanted governments to do more to attract companies to the region and keep them there, to make a broader range of training qualifications available through the TAFE system, and to promote regional population growth.

City of opportunity

But Murray Bridge was still a great place to do business, the manager of a local conveyancing firm told the audience of about 25 people at the Adelaide Road Motor Lodge.

Gemma Wallace, of Johnston Withers, said she had been excited at the opportunities and lifestyle benefits available when she moved to the region, but it had still exceeded her expectations.

"There is so much potential and opportunity everywhere I look, plenty of resilience and loyalty in its people, a real sense of community and a rise-above attitude," she said.

Commercial property in Murray Bridge had produced strong returns for investors lately, she said - up to nine per cent in the past 12 months for leased properties.

When banks declined to loan money, well-off local individuals had stepped in to provide loans that would allow new business owners to follow their dreams.

"These heart-warming transactions ... really are happening all the time," she said.

The state government and council had encouraged residential development, which was bound to come as Adelaide's urban sprawl expanded.

More and more primary producers were agreeing to host wind or solar energy projects on their properties, producing extra income.

International investors were poised to plough their money into the Murraylands as well, she said, including an individual she had recently met in Shanghai.

"We do not need to fear doing business with China or Asia," she said.

"Australians do not need to sell land or hand over control of our Australian companies to make business deals that are mutually beneficial and ultimately lead to investment, job growth and economic development for our state and region."

Other speakers at the event included Murray Bridge council executive Michael Sedgman, Alex Flint from EML (Employers Mutual Limited) and Small Business Commissioner John Chapman.