Businesses in western NSW are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead ahead with positive signs for investment and employment in the region.
The Business Conditions Survey for December found business confidence was at near record highs across the state on the back of the NSW economy.
The NSW Business Chamber’s index on perceptions of the economy more than doubled from the September quarter.
Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe said the boost in confidence was driving growth and investment.
“Locally, Western NSW businesses are positive, but are less optimistic than their counterparts elsewhere in the state,” Ms Seccombe said.
“Positive results were recorded for both capital spending and staffing in western NSW.
“Over 46% of businesses initiated capital spending, with 20% of those businesses doing so to increase capacity or meet increased demand and in turn hiring additional staff.”
Cost pressure was one of the biggest concerns for businesses, Ms Seccombe said, while western NSW was also the area that struggled most with accessing skilled staff.
One-third of western NSW business operators said they struggled to find skilled staff, compared to one in four for the state. Unsurprisingly, metropolitan businesses had the best access to experienced employees.
“It’s an interesting snapshot of the performance of the NSW economy in the eyes of business owners just a year out from the next state election,” Ms Seccombe said.
“However in the long term, these gains could be lost as rising cost pressures continue to weigh heavily on businesses, with over 43% of western NSW businesses reporting higher operating costs.
“The problem is particularly concerning in the accommodation, food service and manufacturing sectors where businesses report their costs are at record high levels.”
Ms Seccombe also gave an insight into what the Western NSW Business Chamber will be looking for from contenders in the 2019 state election.
“Governments need to recognise the impact high energy prices are having on businesses, and the long term implications on the state’s economic performance,” she said.
“In the short term governments should be implementing a package of measures to ease cost pressures.”