Local businesses should win in building boom

Published by: The Daily Telegraph 

We’ve all seen them. Whether you are in the middle of Sydney or in regional NSW, it seems you can’t go too far without seeing a crane in the sky or a bulldozer on the side of the road.

And while the building 'boom' continues in NSW, making us the envy of other States, it's clear there's important lessons for us to learn about how to make the most of this investment by involving more local businesses and improving the way in which its delivered.

While new hospitals, schools, road and rail projects are always welcomed by the community, there's additional benefits that come from leveraging these investments in local business and job opportunities.

However when I speak to businesses, especially small businesses, about these sorts of opportunities, I often hear complaints that they can't get in the door to be considered to supply products or services to major projects or that they don't know about the opportunity or have the time or understanding of what is required for complicated government paperwork.

Other states, like Victoria and South Australia, put obligations on government agencies to ensure that local suppliers, including small business, are considered in the tender process for projects. It's critical that the same happen in NSW.

The failure of these businesses to bid for this work is a loss for these businesses, but an even bigger loss for NSW.

Simpler, clearer and transparent procedures need to be put in place, with incentives and opportunities identified for small businesses to take part in infrastructure projects, particularly in regional areas where small businesses are the lifeblood of their local towns.

It's why as part of our Keeping NSW Number 1 campaign the NSW Business Chamber is calling for all parties to commit to a new Government Procurement Framework that provides more opportunities and incentives for local small and medium enterprises to participate in infrastructure projects.

This will build business capabilities, help drive investment and grow employment in our state.

To help ensure this happens, we are also calling for a new, independent, Infrastructure Coordination Authority which would be tasked with advising on project scoping, contracting, project management and the publication of performance reports on the delivery of all state significant projects.

The Authority would help ensure that tender obligations to work with small business were being met as well as ensure that key project management activity is undertaken and that milestones are being met.

Importantly, as an independent body, the Authority would be able to carefully monitor the overall delivery of a project and ensure that successive projects learn from the previous ones.

While the Chamber was a vocal supporter of the long term leasing of the state's electricity assets at the last election, it is critical that the benefits from this transaction are felt both in our cities and our regions.

At a time when NSW has a balance sheet the envy of every other state and territory it is vital that we seize this opportunity and get best value for our money, now and for the years to come.

This as an exciting time to be living in NSW and we have an opportunity to build an even brighter future and Keep NSW Number 1.

Stephen Cartwright is CEO of the NSW Business Chamber