Criticising policy belies the opportunity

Criticism by sections of the business community to the newly released Innovation and Industry Statement as reported by The Courier (February 18) glosses over the prospective benefits that may flow from government investment in the small to medium enterprise sector.

Reshaping or 'rebadging' of existing policy and programs should not be interpreted entirely in the negative.

It is affirmation of what is already working - like the Enterprise Connect program.

Likewise, investment to link Australia's proven capability in research to businesses could stimulate growth - particularly if it's more accessible to smaller enterprises.

Industry advocates such as Innes Willox from the Australian Industry Group, have noted the statement adopts many of the recommendations arising from the recent Prime Minister's Taskforce into Manufacturing. This is a good thing.

As an economic development practitioner in rural and regional areas, I welcome renewed commitment by government in small to medium enterprise development.

It's not just within the manufacturing. Investment in the broader small to medium enterprise sector increases economic diversity and resilience.

For example, the Digital Enterprise program managed by the University of Ballarat strategically targets small to medium enterprises and not-for-profits. Over 500 attendances have been recorded at training events held locally over past months.

There's more investment in training and development to come, as we prepare to take advantage of the early roll-out of next generation broadband across the Central Highlands.

The future for many rural and regional economies will be brokered on the capacity of the small to medium enterprise sector to innovate, learn and adopt new technologies.

In our region we should welcome policy such as the Innovation and Industry Statement, programs like Digital Enterprise, and infrastructure such as the National Broadband Network.

It's recognition of the importance of small business development to the regional economy.

Rather than criticise policy, let's as a region maximise use of business-related infrastructure and increase the take-up of development programs and incentives.

GERRY CARR-MACFIE

Mt Helen

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