The New South Wales government has placed a focus on small to medium enterprises and startups in its 2017-18 Budget, handing out over AU$2.2 billion across skills training and business-related initiatives.
Small businesses will receive face-to-face support and business advice thanks to a AU$7.5 million investment in the newly created Business Connect Program that will see the introduction of Access to Finance and Procurement Advisory Programs in a bid to help businesses access capital, improve cash flow, and increase opportunities to work on government projects.
According to Minister for Small Business John Barilaro, the Business Connect Program -- which kicked off on January 1, 2017 -- dedicates at least 70 percent of its services to regional NSW, and has been integral in helping businesses "plan, adapt to disruption, survive the impact of natural disasters, and get connected online".
Barilaro said the activities performed by the program make it easier for small businesses to "start up and grow".
"The NSW government has a strong track record of investment since 2011 and has been working hard to make NSW the number one state for entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses in Australia," Barilaro said.
The Business Connect Program supports startups and SMEs through assisting the establishment of new businesses; supporting those already established; delivering workshops and seminars; referring startups and SMEs to services; and promote digital readiness and engagement in the digital economy to businesses by increasing digital and online technology skills and knowledge, especially in regional areas with new or increased internet capabilities such as through satellite broadband or the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
"Small businesses are built on hard work and perseverance, so they deserve a fair go," Barilaro added.
The Budget has also committed AU$96 million to the Jobs for NSW initiative, aimed at encouraging continued business development and investment, as well as to stimulate jobs growth across the state.
Chaired by former Telstra CEO David Thodey, Jobs for NSW recently handed out AU$10 million to grow the state's network of incubators and accelerators, and AU$3 million in 2016-2017 for direct grants to startups.
According to the NSW government, in 2016, more than 18,000 businesses received assistance through advocacy and dispute resolution services, allowing approximately 90 percent of businesses to settle disputes outside of the courtroom and saving them thousands of dollars in legal fees.
In response, the 2017-18 Budget includes AU$3.6 million for small business advocacy and dispute resolution services.
"We will continue to build on these strong foundations by providing tools to improve business skills and financial literacy, adopt new technologies, navigate red tape, access fair opportunities to win government contracts, and be resilient for the future," Barilaro said.
As of January 1, 2018, the NSW government will be abolishing insurance duty for small businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than AU$2 million on commercial vehicle insurance -- including aircraft, professional indemnity insurance, and product and public liability insurance.
In addition, SMEs and startups will receive tax cuts, which is expected to save them AU$300 million over the next four years, and sit alongside initiatives such as Easy to do Business, which reduces the amount of time it takes to complete the necessary paperwork to start a business.
"For NSW to remain the engine room of the national economy, enterprise must continue to flourish," the minister added. "Our reforms send a strong signal to the market that this state continues to be a great place to do business."
AU$1 million per year for three years will be spent on supporting the Innovation and Productivity Council to conduct research and develop advice for boosting innovation to improve the productivity of the broader NSW economy, which NSW Minister for Trade and Industry Niall Blair said includes a focus on small, medium, and regional businesses.
The funding comes via a AU$40 million package labelled as promoting jobs and global competitiveness, which also includes a AU$10 million injection to support trade and investment activities.
A AU$2.2 billion investment in skills development and training programs aimed at delivering a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the future was also announced on Tuesday, which will include initiatives such as training offered at TAFE "modernised" to meet the future workforce.
AU$410.6 million over four years was also allocated on Tuesday for investment in TAFE NSW colleges and major technology improvements, including a new student management system to deliver enhanced enrolment and business systems within TAFE NSW.
New Connected Learning Centres labelled as "digitally enabled, next generation learning environments" will also form in locations across regional NSW to allow for enhanced distance education.
The state government's Jobs of Tomorrow STEM Scholarships will receive AU$6 million under this year's Budget to assist students with AU$1,000 grants while training in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM)-related courses.
The state government has also offered up AU$3.6 million for the first NSW Women's Strategy, which is hoping to bring equality to the workforce for the state's 3.8 million females.
As part of the strategy, the Investing in Women Grants 2017-18 will be awarded to innovative programs that educate and encourage women to achieve equality in the workplace and long-term financial security.
The strategy is backed by Minister for Women Tanya Davies, who will also introduce a Council on Women's Economic Opportunity that will provide advice to the government on policies and programs to improve economic standings for women.