Symposium sparks cooperative path to success

A sold-out business symposium has been told cooperation creates wealth and will be essential for major economic expansion in the Armidale region.

Approximately 80 business operators and other invited guests attended the Business Symposium Breakfast, held by Armidale Regional Council on Wednesday.

“The strongest message to emerge was the need for greater networking and a united effort between businesses large and small, Council and the wider community,” Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said.

“Many of the participants expressed the need for businesses to work together, to encourage visitors and locals to spend money in the region. It can be as simple as referring customers to other businesses, such as accommodation houses directing people to local restaurants and visa versa.

“The symposium was a very successful way to foster that cooperation, by sparking discussions, developing connections and identifying shared opportunities. It brought together a fantastic diversity of businesses, from retail and a range of professional services to agtech and agricultural supplies.”

Councillor Murray said those connections and cooperation were particularly vital for small and start-up businesses.

Guest speaker and international businessman Ian Mason pointed to the role of start-ups in the economic boom experienced by UK city Manchester – which has been the fastest-growing UK centre in recent years and had obvious parallels with the Armidale region.

Manchester’s success as a regional centre outside the business hub of London has been partially driven by large businesses establishing a presence in the city, attracted by the lower costs of establishing and operating in a regional area. Those attractions then lured many smaller enterprises to the central business district to service those big businesses.

Mr Mason said London, Manchester and other UK centres had generated significant economic prosperity through collaboration and fostering can-do attitudes between business another sections of the community.

The entrepreneur’s list of achievements includes an instrumental role in creating and growing Virgin Start-ups, Sir Richard Branson’s not-for-profit company which has so far provided 11,000 entrepreneurs with more than $75 million in seed-capital, along with business to business (B2B) mentoring and other support.

Mr Mason and Cr Murray said the Armidale region’s close connection between businesses and their customers, which just “two degrees of separation”, was a major strength because it allows agile service delivery and fast-tracking of ideas and feedback.

Cr Murray said it was essential businesses did not focus their energies on competing with one another.

“While some competition is healthy to keep businesses on their toes, it has to be balanced by cooperation that recognises the potential for mutual gain and boosts the level of business activity as a whole. While you’re striving for a share of the pie, you do everything you can to make sure you’re starting with a bigger pie,” he said.

“It was extremely encouraging to see the enthusiasm of participants at the symposium and their commitment for ongoing collaboration.

“Council has also learnt a lot from the discussions. While it doesn’t directly general economic wealth, Council needs to ensure its processes and activities help to create the right environment for business to thrive.”

Initiatives proposed at the symposium included an information hub to help businesses, Council and the wider community work together.

Mr Mason said Manchester’s Business Growth Hub was instrumental in that city’s growth, by unifying a community that previously had been fragmented. He hoped the symposium was the start of similar growth for the Armidale region, to establish the area as a northern powerhouse in the NSW economy.

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