12/06/2015 - 13:12

Perth businessman to run for lord mayor

12/06/2015 - 13:12

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Engineer, entrepreneur and restaurateur Michael O’Hanlon has declared he will run for the position of Perth lord mayor at the October election, based on an ambitious three-point economic plan for the city.

Perth businessman to run for lord mayor
RIDE ON: If elected, Michael O’Hanlon plans to bring a creative business approach to the role of lord mayor. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Engineer, entrepreneur and restaurateur Michael O’Hanlon has declared he will run for the position of Perth lord mayor at the October election, based on an ambitious three-point economic plan for the city.

At the heart of his campaign is a proposal to use 10 per cent of the council’s $100 million-plus cash reserves to invest in what he calls high-risk business ventures with Perth organisations.

Mr O’Hanlon – who built up businesses in software development (events guide app Hipflask), electric racing motorbikes (O’Hanlon Electric Motorsport), and food, beverage and entertainment with his Perth CBD cafe Toastface Grillah and Northbridge live music pub The Bird – said his investment approach for Perth council was unique, but not radical.

“What the city does have is a very enviable balance sheet, in the vicinity of a billion dollars worth of real estate, in the vicinity of $130 million worth of cash and in the vicinity of zero debt. So to hold that kind of asset base and have zero per cent of it dedicated to high-risk, local investments … that’s just irresponsible,” Mr O’Hanlon told Business News.

“With regard to that $10 million (10 per cent), we’re not just going to fire it all off in one big hot dog bazooka in one round; it will be a commitment to seed a fund with that much money over time, and that fund will have the appropriate people sitting on the board who have handled transactions of that size before.

“Managing a best practice fund is about as radical as a self-managed super fund is, and if that’s radical then every old man I know is radical and we need to find a new word to talk about progressive ideas.”

Mr O’Hanlon’s campaign platform also includes a plan to formally engage with Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation to ensure Perth businesses are more aware, and can avail themselves, of funding opportunities for energy efficiency or renewable energy developments within their own facilities.

He has also proposed a research and development loan scheme, again drawing on the council’s deep financial reserves.

Mr O’Hanlon plans to provide loans for Perth businesses that qualify for federal R&D tax incentives but want to access the rebate earlier to improve their cash flow.

Loans will be repayable at the rate of the consumer price index once businesses receive their federal rebate.

Mr O’Hanlon complimented Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi (who is yet to declare if she will run again), but said he wanted to implement more sophisticated and proactive change.

“I just want to set up a city that’s going to make the most out of some opportunities,” he said.

“Opportunities for wealth creation for people who are doing well to keep doing well, for people who want to have a look at taking some risks, for people who don’t want to get involved in corporate crud and just want to see William Street festival be as big as it should be, or want to see us really roll our sleeves up and support our independent designers and creative industries that don’t get a lot of credit.

“I just want to see this city be fantastic.

“Typically I’ve come into everything as a dark horse, I’d never opened a pub before, (then) opened the best pub in the world. Never opened a cafe before, opened what I believe is one of the best cafes in the world. Never opened a software company before, I’m very happy with how that’s going. The motorbike, I feel the exact same way. My method has always been to focus on the problem, go straight at it.”


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