Help you need begins at home

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Earlier this month, Minister for Small Business Stuart Nash was in Timaru to visit the local Chamber of Commerce.

Not surprisingly, he was asked about the 28 empty shops in Timaru’s Stafford St.

He was quoted as saying: “Hopefully, in time you won’t have all these empty shops. They will be full of innovative businesses and retailers who are doing things differently, but what they will be able to do is leverage off the help provided.”

Stop the bus!

Do things differently?

Wait.

There is help provided?

Mr Nash acknowledged that “many” small businesses don’t know about the “range of services and assistance available to them”.

Many? I’d say most.

He cited the $3billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund (encouraging small businesses to apply) along with the (nationally available) Business Mentors programme and hinted at some possible future changes for small businesses based on last month’s (as-yet-unknown) recommendations from the Small Business Council.

Hmmm.

“Hey Shane Jones, can I have some money to do things differently? ‘Cause, you know, we’re a region. Please?”

Yeah, nah. It might take a bit more than that.

These seemingly slim pickings remind me of an old joke.

The devout vicar, imam, rabbi (pick a religion, any religion) is caught in a rising flood. As he prays for salvation, his neighbours offer him a rope to high ground, then, as the waters rise, a boat and finally a rescue helicopter.

He refuses all offers because he knows his God will save him. After he (predictably) drowns and meets his maker, he asks: “Why didn’t you save me?”.

His God replies: “I sent you a rope, a boat and a helicopter – what more could you want?”.

The way I see it, small businesses in the regions can’t wait for the on-highs for salvation.

There’s some business support out there and, whether it’s a rope, boat or helicopter, it doesn’t matter so long as we take it!

The Otago Chamber of Commerce is providing local access to “Business Mentors”, Capability Development Vouchers (subsidised upskilling) and research and development funding.

The Provincial Growth Fund could be worth a tilt.

But just like in the joke, my money’s on my neighbours – Annabel Berry’s Oamaru Business Collective where local businesses are working together to revitalise our town. You can check it out on Facebook.

I’m mindful that we can’t choose what we don’t know about, so I figure it’s find out and jump in or keep waiting.