18 February 2014

Chamber of Commerce - Canberra Business Council merger

| Jazz
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ACT chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, Andrew Blythe & Canberra Business Council CEO, Chris Faulks

For the past several years the Canberra Business Council and ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry have staunchly represented the interests of the relatively small ACT business community in a town where the biggest employer has, and likely will always be the federal government. One might argue that having two organisations who from the outside can only be differentiated by their logo’s and personnel involved seems crazy (both purport to act in advocacy roles for the ACT business community and to provide support for their members) – but for years both have vehemently denied all rumours of a merger between the two organisations. Until now.

Because we don’t have a PDF of a letter delivered to members this week i’ve copied the one we received from another member below…

Dear Member

We write to you today to inform you of a proposed new direction for business in the ACT and the region.

The boards of Canberra Business Council (Business Council) and the ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Chamber) have agreed to take a proposal to members of both organisations to create a new company to represent business in Canberra and the region.

The boards of both organisations believe it is in the best interests of business and the best interests of the Canberra and regional community for a single organisation to be created.

The purpose of creating this new company is to combine the experience and resources of the two organisations to bring a greater depth and quality to the important services provided to business and the policy and advocacy work that is vital to the future prosperity of Canberra and the region. By combining the skills, experience and resources of the Chamber and Business Council we will create a single, stronger organisation.

It will have a stronger membership base, create more opportunity for collaboration, networking, thought leadership and provide better services to the business community. Business in Canberra and the region will be better served by bringing two organisations together as one.

We have appointed Deloitte to lead a process to develop a proposal which will be taken to you, our members, later this year.

Following the tabling of the proposal both organisations will hold special meetings, where resolutions supporting the creation of the new organisation will be put. For the resolution to succeed, 75% of the members present and who are eligible to vote must vote yes.

As a valued member, we assure you that at all stages during this process we will keep you informed of all activity. Communicating with you is our priority and we will be holding a range of stakeholder consultation meetings in the near future to fully update you on all proceedings. We encourage you to ask as many questions as possible during the consultation period so we can work collaboratively to ensure the best outcome for business in Canberra and the region.

Please do not hesitate to contact us, or either of the organisations for further details.

Kind Regards

Now on the surface this would seem welcome news to members : A pooling of resources and political influence, increased and connections between the ACT business community and collaboration to really increase employment opportunities and opportunities for innovation in our fair city. But rumours reach us that some members are less than enthusiastic about what it means to their relative positions of influence, that the proposal is an unwelcome game changer this time as it has been in the past – levelling previously biased playing fields.

What do you think? Is a new ‘super’ advocate for ACT business a good or bad thing? What changes could you see it making and are these for good or ill in Canberra?

disclaimer – RiotACT used to be a member of the chamber of commerce, but quit because we didn’t feel it was giving us any value.

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Well, technically, I suppose having one purpose-built organisation is better than having two that sort-of do the same kind of thing. And it would be even better if that one organisation knew something about business.

The ATO defines small business as one having an aggregated turnover of less than 2 million bucks while the Fair Work people define it as having up to 15 employees. (Not exactly a meeting of the minds, is it.)

I’d suggest that a startling number of businesses in the ACT don’t come close to either definition – they’re micro businesses and as such too small to warrant any concern or attention.

screaming banshee6:28 pm 18 Feb 14

Having never gotten around to joining either this will make the decision easier

The_Communication_Link3:56 pm 18 Feb 14

Seems to make sense to me – always had trouble figuring out which organisation was right for our little business.

Would be good to move on from the traditional businesses that built this town, (the builders and property developers and their service industry = lawyers, accountants consultants). They made this great city what it is today, but if we want jobs for our kids we need to broaden our outlook!

It is time some new industries step up to show broad business leadership. Perhaps a new organisation to represent our city in its next century will help this happen.

Disclaimer – member of the Business Council for many years, but recently questioning if it is the right place for us.

Just do it already and get it over with.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a member of either and never have been. Just interested, that’s all)

As an outsider, seeing two separate bodies do the same thing appears relatively ineffective and screams of empire building. It also means higher costs for small businesses to be members of two organisations rather than one. I bet the current ACT govt. is also able to use the situation to its advantage at times by playing the two groups off against each other (not that such a thing would ever happen of course).

Some things I’d be interested in seeing in relation to this are stats and related information over time to gauge how effective the two organisations have been over the past decade or so. Some items of interest include:

The proportion of local government spending dedicated to small business in the ACT in comparison to other categories.

The proportion of local govt contracts awarded to local ACT small businesses in comparison to medium/large businesses and interstate/international businesses.

Information about what sort of incentives/breaks are available for local small businesses to get up and running.

Information about how things are progressing with abolishing ACT payroll tax (effectively a greedy tax to leech off small businesses that become successful – plenty of disincentives stifling growth there).

Information about how the local govt. can foster integration between local small businesses and the ideas, effort, enthusiasm, and research of the people involved in the higher education organisations present in the ACT.

Sounds to me like one or the other (or both) is running out of money – not the most inspiring impression to be giving out.

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