AS the fastest growing suburb in Western Australia and the second fastest nationally, the City of Wanneroo has been unable to ignore the issue of regional employment.
Wanneroo’s population is predicted to double in 10 years and double again in the decade after that.
Unlike Perth’s southern areas, the north coast suburbs do not have an industrial area to facilitate regional employment and, as a result, the City of Wanneroo is looking to the home-based business sector to play a pivotal role in its economic future.
Through fostering partnerships with business and taking a pro-active approach via the implementation of business support structures, the city hopes to nurture and enhance commercial and employment opportunities within the region.
City of Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly said he envisioned the home-based business sector servicing the booming building and construction industry in Wanneroo.
Private investment alone on infrastructure and housing construction in the northern city is worth $250 million per annum.
“If people are building houses they will be wanting furniture, landscaped gardening, accountants,” Mr Kelly said.
“The development industry will account for a whole range of businesses, and I would expect home-based business to cater for that growth.”
Mr Kelly said that, by encouraging business opportunities in the region, council was trying to ensure Wanneroo did not become a dormitory suburb.
“If you stand on top an ants’ nest you will see all the ants leave in the morning and return in the evening,” he said.
“If you could stand above some of the northern suburbs you would see the same thing.”
Dormitory suburbs lack regional employment, exert greater pressure on transport infrastructure and are more likely to experience social problems such as lack of community spirit and increased crime rates.
“By creating employment in and around the region it is a lot healthier both socially and economically,” Mr Kelly said.
To foster regional employment the City of Wanneroo has implemented a number of physical and virtual networks to support home-based business operators and mobile professionals.
Through a joint venture with the City of Joondalup and Edith Cowan University, Wanneroo has created a regional electronic marketplace.
2cities.com.au is an Internet gateway that provides home-based business operators with valuable exposure to potential clients, access to local information and infrastructure to network and trade within the region.
Originally established as a promotional tool to showcase the Wanneroo and Joondalup regions, community groups and home-based businesses will soon be able to register and be exposed to the greater regional market.
Wanneroo’s physical support network includes a Small Business Skills Centre and the SunCity Access Centre – which provides training in the latest information technology and e-commerce – and the Wanneroo Business Association.
City of Wanneroo has recognised developing a home based-business can be a daunting experience and is aiming to streamline the approval process.
“It is foolish for councils to overcharge home-based business as it pushed them underground,” Mr Kelly said.
“If a council overcharges, businesses just won’t register and the city is unable to take a role to foster or encourage, to keep track of what businesses there are or to regulate.”
In Wanneroo, businesses that do not require employees, on-site parking or clients to visit the site are not subject to an approval process or council fees. The city allows a maximum of four employees to be employed by a home-based business.
Edith Cowan University Small and Medium Enterprise Research Centre director Dr Beth Walker said 70 per cent of home-based business operators worked from home and 30 per cent worked at home.
Dr Walker said it was the smaller at-home group that was more beneficial for their communities.
“One of the benefits of people preferring to work at home is they are more likely to shop at home and use local services,” she said.
“In the long term they generate money that stays within the community.”
Dr Walker said the sector tended to be service orientated, focusing on business services such as lawyers, accountants, secretarial support and management consultants.
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