More than 150 Launceston businesses have received $797,000 in grant funding to help them adapt to challenging retail conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Launceston today released the full list of innovation grant recipients as part of its $8.9 million Community Care and Recovery package.
Recipients include a broad range of businesses across the city – from retail outlets through to cafes, music stores, butchers and local gymnasiums.
Mayor Albert van Zetten said he was delighted that so many local small businesses and community organisations would benefit from the grants package.
“Through this grants programme, we’re proud that we’ve been able to help these local small business operators to adapt their business model so they can remain competitive in what is an already difficult market right now,” Mayor van Zetten said.
The grants program was designed to allow Launceston’s small businesses — around half of which have little to no online presence — shift their products and services to an online marketplace or to enhance links with customers across Tasmania and the globe.
The two-tier grants programme enabled businesses to apply for up to $1000 for professional advice from an expert panel (level 1), and up to $7000 to implement online solutions (level 2).
Mayor van Zetten said the Council was overwhelmed by the response to the innovation grants package, with level 2 grants reaching full subscription in just five days.
“We fully understand how difficult this pandemic has been on our business sector in Launceston,” Mayor van Zetten said.
“Given the incredible response we had right across the board, there’s obviously a number of businesses out there desperate to try new and innovative ways of operating as they adapt to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Council’s Community Care and Recovery package was unanimously adopted by the Council in April to support Launceston’s commercial sector, which has been impacted heavily by the ongoing pandemic.
It included a wide range of support and recovery measures, including a six-month rates remission for eligible businesses, a rate rise freeze for the 2020-21 financial year, an accelerated $40 million capital works programme, a new Rates Hardship Policy and $465,000 in fee relief for business.
Mayor van Zetten said while the grants program only represented a small portion of the overall Community Care and Recovery Package, it was already making a difference.
“We know there are businesses around Launceston who have been able to keep operating because of these grants, and businesses that have been able to keep employees on,” he said.
“We’re delighted that we were able to respond so quickly to the needs of businesses that are in danger of closing, and also those that needed a helping hand to adapt to changing conditions moving forward.
“This means the securing of jobs in a range of industries in Northern Tasmania at this critical time, which will have an untold positive economic impact in the months and years to come.”
Mayor van Zetten said that there will still a number of business support measures available through the State and Federal Governments, and encouraged all Launceston businesses to familiarise themselves with those programs.
The Council will conduct a full audit of the grants programme.