World Small Business Day: Canberra business numbers reach a new milestone

On World Small Business Day 2020, Canberra reaches an important milestone. More than 30,000 private sector businesses now operate across the city – an increase of 5% over the past year. The majority of these enterprises are small, but together they employ nearly two-thirds of Canberra’s workforce.

To recognise the importance of small businesses, the United Nations has designated 27 June each year as Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Day. The day recognises and celebrates the important contributions small and microbusinesses around the world make to job opportunities and prosperity in local communities. According to the International Council of Small Business, these companies account for 60% to 70% of total employment and 50% of global GDP.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest Counts of Australian Business publication shows that the ACT had 30,050 businesses formally operating within its borders during the last financial year.

This is the largest number of private companies we’ve ever had in the city’s history. In fact, during the 2018-19 financial year, the ACT had the highest rate of new business creation in the country! That’s a great achievement to celebrate on World Small Business Day.

Retail turnover in the ACT increased at almost twice the national rate, growing by 4.7% last year; and residential construction growth helped to support our building industry at a critical time when the sector struggled nationwide.

However, this year’s World Small Business Day will be bittersweet as we take the opportunity to recognise that small businesses around the world have been hit hardest by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented health measures enacted to contain the spread of the virus have resulted in supply chain disruptions and a massive drop in demand.

While we should celebrate the growth of the private sector and ACT economy, our small businesses are facing tough times ahead. The last seven months have been especially difficult as so many were severely affected by bushfires, smoke, hail damage and now COVID-19.

However, we know that small business owners are resilient, and over the past few months we’ve seen them innovate and improvise, against all the odds, to support their people, customers, and communities. This year we need all Canberrans to shop and buy local to help our fellow Territorians in business, as well as seek help for small businesses from the territory and federal governments.