BEC review raises more questions

SMALL Business Minister Bob Kucera has branded a recent review into the operation of Western Australia’s 37 Business Enterprise Centres as "disappointing".

Mr Kucera complained that the review did not answer his key questions regarding optimal funding levels and optimal centre numbers.

The $50,000 review, conducted by the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation, was given 13 terms of reference.

CEMI director Tim Mazzarol said the terms of reference did not specifically spell out those questions.

Mr Kucera said the Government would now wait to see if any consensus came from the public submissions that were being received on the review.

"My problem with the review is that it does not provide a pathway forward," he said.

"But it does contain some good options in terms of accountability, performance and entrepreneurship."

If the submissions do not provide a consensus then, Mr Kucera said, the Government would have to make its decisions based on the information it had.

The final date for submissions is February 24.

Dr Mazzarol said the Government had given no clear idea on what sort of additional funding could be expected for the BECs.

"It comes down to what the community wants from their BEC," he said.

"If they just want somebody to sit in an office and counsel people on starting up a business then the amount of funding on offer now is fine.

"However, if they want to go beyond that then more funding is required."

Each BEC receives about $60,000 which is to fund the appointment of its manager.

Some BECs receive in kind and financial support from local government authorities for further things such as secretarial services.

Dr Mazzarol said one of both the problems and pluses with the BECs was their diverse nature.

He said that diversity meant that there was no standard benchmark for the network, something that needed to be achieved.

The centres range from Kununurra to Esperance and the needs that each community has for their centre is very different.

The review came up with 13 recommendations. These were:

Develop the strategic capacity of BECWA, the peak body comprising the chairs of the committees for the 37 BECs;

BECWA develop a strategic plan for the BEC network;

Retain the Small Business Development Corporation as the sponsorship scheme coordinator;

Increase network funding;

Focus on microbusiness and business start-ups;

Implement a strategic planning framework;

Coordinate funding through the regional strategy groups. There are six of these groups and they are coordinated by the BECWA regional chairs;

Review performance measures;

Define the core enterprise facilitation service;

Examine the feasibility for enhanced links with telecentres;

Promote the BEC service;

Enhance professional development of BEC managers; and

Encourage membership of the BEC Managers Association.

The need for the BEC review came out of the recent five-yearly review of the SBDC – a requirement of the legislation governing its operation.

A decision on the Government’s plans for the BECs is not expected for several months.


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