Wednesday featured a well-attended Tourism Connect set of sessions where opportunities were introduced for Barkly hospitality and tourism-related businesses to access new pathways to product distribution, digital promotion and what Tourism NT is doing in partnership with Tourism Central Australia to position the region for the burgeoning domestic self-drive and fly-drive market.
Success Stories are always welcomed at OBM, and we were all inspired on Thursday by the stories of how Steve and Jan Baldwin started and grew their own homegrown enterprises in tourism and aviation refuelling in the region, before meeting and combining their business brains to create a combination of businesses in the greater Barkly that includes aviation fuel services at Tennant Creek Airport, the busiest cafe in the region, a caravan park touted as the Territory’s friendliest, and the iconic Larrimah Pink Panther hotel along with a growing military and WWII memorial nearby. Both Steve and Jan highlighted diversification and investment in their people as the secrets behind their successes, noting that current economic challenges have shown that spreading the risk over a few core business types has helped them weather the current storms, which staying open and keeping their team employed.
The energy sector is where all the future talk is with the Barkly region right now, and the Territory Economic Reconstruction Committee (TERC) hosted an informative set of sessions around onshore gas prospecting and exploration, along with the required support structures for those activities needing to come from local businesses and suppliers. This was then followed-up with Suncable’s presentation on renewable projects for the region including the large-scale solar generation project near Tennant Creek. Talk of an “Energy Corridor” reminded longer-term locals of the benefits gained from the extension of the Ghan railway in the early 2000s from Alice Springs, through the region, and then on to Katherine and Darwin.
The reality of good business practices followed the lunch break, with Phil Loader of the Business Enterprise Centre NT reminding all present, that following your figures and moving forward with a plan, was vital to creating a business that you don’t just grow, but you plan to sell down the track.
Friday’s learning ended with Dante St James of Treeti Business Consulting and Facebook Australia showing the connection between websites, digital content, Google and social media. This was related back to Territory case studies of online successes, and a set of clear instructions for specific types of Barkly businesses on how to increase their share of the global online voice, particularly when it comes to tourism and infrastructure projects.
Chamber of Commerce NT‘s Business at Sunset event at the Barkly Regional Council chambers brought together a range of local business, government agencies and business services from across the region and the Territory. Attendees heard about how Chamber assists business to grow sustainably within a compliance framework and enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with other businesses and organisations who all shared a desire to see the Barkly come into its own as a creator of economic activity, and not simply a convergence of two highways that are used to pass through it.
Friday brought the thinkers and planners of the region together to learn about tenders by tender professional, Sally Morris from Crest NT and Julie Jenkins from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade. This was an opportunity to hear from both those who release tenders and those who respond to them and matching your business’ capabilities with what the tender calls for.
Key takeaways from Tennant Creek include:
- Diversification is an effective way to shield against economic changes
- The energy and renewables sectors will power mid-term economic growth in the region
- Tourism is an opportunity for growth where the capacity of local operators can be raised to meet an increasing demand
- Barkly locals hold the digital keys for creating compelling digital content that will help drive visitors, workers and new residents in the region
Dante St James is Head of Digital at Treeti Business Consulting, and is reporting from the October Business Month Territory Grown Roadshow at Tennant Creek.