More than 40 Warrnambool businesses will share in close to $100,000 through Warrnambool City Council’s Business Initiative Grant (BIG) program.
The grants are part of Council’s Business Support Plan to help local business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the spirit of the Get Around Warrnambool campaign, the grants focus on business growth, collaboration, entrepreneurship and developing new business strategies on a dollar for dollar basis.
“The response to the grants was overwhelming,” Warrnambool Mayor Cr Tony Herbert.
“Council was glad to extend the initial $60,000 allocated to the grants to nearly $100 000 in order to support more businesses.
“Local businesses have shown incredible innovation and initiative throughout the pandemic.
“These are challenging times and we understand the plight many businesses find themselves in.
“But our local businesses have shown great spirit and business management and we are providing a helping hand with some financial assistance.”
The projects funded through the BIG program range from developing an improved online presence to implementing precooked meal services and enhancing business processes.
A stipulation of the grants was that local suppliers had to be used where possible, in order to ensure the money stays local, creating a flow on effect for other local businesses.
The timing of the grants was ideal for Fiona and Craig Hanks, who bought purified water operation Coastal Pure Water in March this year.
“We bought the business – which perfectly complemented our existing Cobden-based ice and Sungold dairy distribution business – then COVID-19 hit,” Fiona said.
“To get through the pandemic we knew we needed to improve efficiency and become a COVID-safe operation.
“That meant improving our software systems so that we could offer our customers a convenient and quick no-contact delivery and invoicing service.
“We’re using Warrnambool business Welcome Computers for the software update and this fits in with our own ethos which is to ensure that all the products we sell – dairy, water, ice – are sourced within the South West.
“The BIG program grant will allow us to implement the software earlier than anticipated and that will mean we can put more time and energy into other parts of the business.
“Throughout the pandemic we have stuck to the rules, we’ve continued to serve our customers and we’ll get through this.”
Cr Herbert said by ensuring the use of local suppliers, over 100 local businesses could benefit indirectly from the grants in addition to those receiving direct support.
“The grants were designed to have a multi-tiered effect on the local economy by encouraging everyone to think, support and spend local,” Cr Herbert said.
Applications for the grants came from a range of businesses, including mechanics, accommodation providers, retail businesses and hospitality businesses.
“We wanted to encourage businesses to look beyond the current pandemic and plan ahead for the future,” Cr Herbert said.
“While it is of course important to deal with current issues, we also wanted to make sure that people have medium- and long-term plans in place that will allow them to grow and adapt their business going forward.
“Our Business Support Plan is more than a band-aid grant to see businesses through the pandemic but a long-term strategy to grow Warrnambool’s economy into the future.”