The only way to revive South Australia’s “failing” economy is for the government to invest in entrepreneurs, Lord Mayoral candidate Martin Haese says.
Haese released his platform for boosting entrepreneurship in the city this morning.
The plan includes creating an “investment attraction unit” in the Adelaide City Council, increasing funding for Renew Adelaide and lobbying the South Australian and federal governments for around $10 million in “seed funding” for fledgling businesses in Adelaide’s CBD.
“I don’t think we have a choice; I think we have a failing economy,” Haese said.
“I believe we need a seed fund – a national seed fund or, at the very least, a state seed fund – which is very city-centric … and incentivises entrepreneurs.”
If he were elected Lord Mayor, Haese said he would lobby the State Government to appoint private agencies to screen potential small businesses for viability, and have them invest taxpayer funds into those with the most promise.
“The State Government matches [funding] on a dollar-for-dollar basis; whatever that ratio looks like. That’s up to negotiation,” he said.
“All parties involved would have an exit strategy, meaning that there’s a timeline by which time these funds either need to be repaid or restructured.
“What is lacking in the entire conversation in the startup community is the funding model.
“There is a lot of in kind support, there is a lot of conversation, there is a lot of well-meaning,but there is not a lot of money.”
Many of the items in Haese’s plan involve appealing to the State Government for funding.
“I don’t believe it’s that appropriate to put hard funds on the line for Adelaide City Council,” he said.
Haese said state and federal investment in Adelaide was simply a matter of political will.
“There are some things as Lord Mayor that you can do, and some things as Lord Mayor that you can advocate for,” he said. “This one would be in that [latter] category.”
“This could be a $10 million fund. In the larger scheme of things, it’s a relatively small sum compared to the cost of some other state infrastructure projects.
“But it sends the very clear message that South Australia is serious about startups [and] its’ serious about innovation.”
Haese said he would work with either side of state politics to improve Adelaide’s prospects.
“If the Premier has a good idea that benefits the city of Adelaide, I’ll be right behind it,” he said. “If the State Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has a better idea or an equally good idea then I’ll be right behind it. Conversely, if both of them have bad ideas which do not benefit the city of Adelaide, I will negotiate with them on it.”
Haese his idea of an investment attraction unit in Adelaide City Council would “bring more investment, more tenancies, more business, more startups, more retailers, more construction … whatever it might be to the city of Adelaide”.
He said the unit would improve Adelaide City Council’s currently “non-existent” relationship with businesses in the city.
“[There are] ratepayers who contribute over 1 million a year in rates to Adelaide City Council – Adelaide City Council’s not even having a conversation with these people,” he said.
“There is no engagement.
“I think that people have the right to be very concerned that Adelaide city council is not even in the business of being in business.”
Acting Lord Mayor Natasha Malani rejected the criticism.
“This council has been very proactive in engaging the business community,” she said.
“Whilst the council finds Martin’s comments a bit disappointing we acknowledge his opinion.”
Malani cited the council’s retail strategy, it early evening economy strategy, free wi-fi program, and its upgrades of Rundle Mall and Victoria Square as examples of engagement with business.
“From ground level to strategy, we are doing a lot of activity to engage the business community,” she said.
“Now is the time for some debate.”
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