The State Government’s first consolidated “State of the State” Annual Small Business Statement sets a future course for the sector that provides almost a quarter of a million local jobs, is worth $34 billion each year and underpins the local economy.

Released today at an industry event by Minister for Small Business Martin Hamilton-Smith, the 2016 Small Business Statement features a snapshot of the local SME sector and delivers a baseline from which we can measure our improvement in an area that still faces key challenges including energy costs and on-going IR challenges.

The statement lays down a 10-point action plan developed in consultation with industry associations and small business owners, representing more than 50,000 businesses across a broad range of industries.

The release follows this week’s eighth and best attended Ministerial Small Business Roundtable, attended by 38 small business associations, many who have been and will continue to be consulted about key challenges and opportunities facing SMEs.

Finally, the Minister announced that over the next 12 months, key agencies would meet with each registered small business association in the state, with a view to developing a tailored response to key areas to be addressed in next year’s statement.

Background

About 98 per cent, or 140,000, of all businesses in South Australia are small businesses and employ around one third of the state’s workforce.

South Australian businesses have greater survival rates than any other in Australian state and our cost of keeping full time employees is 11 per cent below the national average.

Quotes attributable to Small Business Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith

South Australia’s 140,000 small businesses are the backbone of our economy and are key drivers of employment and growth, contributing to the state billions of dollars.

That’s why the South Australian Government is dedicated to providing the right business environment for small businesses to grow and prosper.

Our strategy is working. KPMG’s 2016 biennial report on competitive alternatives ranked Adelaide the most cost-competitive city in Australia.

Last month NAB’s business confidence survey ranked SA number one and the BankSA State Monitor last month recorded the highest level of business confidence in three years.

Why do we get these ratings? For the first time we have created a coordinated small business portfolio by bringing together the four key small business areas within government – the Department of State Development’s Small Business Unit, the Office of the Small Business Commissioner, the Office of the Industry Advocate and the Simple Regulation Unit.

I meet weekly with this single coordinated team and have made it responsible for executing the action plan in today’s Small Business Statement.

In other good news for the sector, the State Government has maintained small business payroll tax rebates; set up a $60 million Early Commercialisation Fund; a $10 million Small Business Development Fund; $7.5 million UniSA Future Industries Institute and expanded the Export Partnership Program among other key strategies to support and grow the sector.

But there certainly are challenges, including energy costs and some IR issues and we absolutely have to tackle those as a priority.

The Liberals locked in higher prices when they sold ETSA to monopolies, so we don't own our power assets now, so the levers we can pull are limited.

But there are things we can do including using the procurement of 75 per cent if the government electricity load to incentivise the entry of a new generator into the market to increase competition and we’re partnering with gas companies through a $24 million grant program to extract more gas and supply it to local generators first.

When it comes to the retail sector, small businesses are being supported by the Government’s sensible approach to trading hours. The Liberal Party wants open slather on trading hours – allowing the major national retail chains to crush small business.

The Government pursues a balanced policy giving consumers plenty of time to shop while also protecting small business owners.

Quotes attributable to SKY News financial commentator and keynote speaker Peter Switzer

South Australia has a history of very innovative small businesses and the truly great performers are the ones that overcome resource problems by being resourceful.

Good government policy can encourage small businesses to be resourceful. Very successful small businesses have leaders who think outside the square.

Quotes attributable to Sturms Mechanical Engineering Director Andrew Richards

Government support has greatly benefited our company and opened up new opportunities.

We soon learnt that we were creating the foundations for a cost-effective, quality pipewelding solution for our current clients as well as potential new clients.

By reducing our welding times substantially we have become far more cost effective. One of our clients was so impressed with our efforts they have provided significantly more work for Sturms.