Yesterday afternoon, on his 612 ABC Brisbane drive time show (from 1:42:50), Steve Austin interviewed my colleague QEAS Director Nick Behrens on the still relatively weak wages growth figures released yesterday. Nick also covered more positive news regarding the state government’s coal royalty revenue windfall and robust growth in business numbers. Nick was referring to business count data based on ABN registrations released by the ABS earlier this week. Business numbers were up 2.8% in 2016-17 in Queensland (and up 3.1% nationally). There was inconsistent growth in business numbers across local government areas, however, and while Gold Coast and Ipswich experienced strong growth, Mount Isa, Mackay and Rockhampton experienced falls, for example (see figure below).
A significant contributor to recent business growth has been Uber, which has resulted in strong growth in businesses whose main activity is transport, as seen in the visualisation of industry growth rates for South East Queensland LGAs below. Other stand out sectors were Information Media and Telecommunications in Ipswich, which has grown off a low base and may have been associated with the establishment of Fire Station 101, the Ipswich Innovation Hub. I suspect the large declines in mining businesses recorded in some LGAs are due to people who previously contracted to the mining sector during the boom years and have since cancelled or let their business registrations lapse, or have moved out of the LGAs.
What has happened in other cities and towns in Queensland? Here we see less of a positive impact of Uber, but substantial growth of the Information Media and Telecommunications sector in some regional centres, including Townsville, Rockhampton and Mackay (off low bases of typically only dozens of businesses in each LGA, though). Despite the small numbers of businesses, this would nonetheless be great news for those Council economic development officers keen to promote economic diversification and entrepreneurship in their regions.
Incidentally, my feeling is that interest in entrepreneurship in Australia is now the greatest it’s been since the 1980s. Luckily, this time around, we appear to have fewer of the bold riders, the Bonds, Connells and Skases, and entrepreneurship is being directed at more innovative and socially beneficial pursuits.