CITY finance boss Eddy Sarroff (pictured) will embark on a $2 million roadshow initiative to attract investors and big business to the Gold Coast as part of the Gold Coast City Council’s 2010 Budget.

At a Budget breakfast hosted by the Institute of Business Leaders, Councillor Sarroff reiterated to Gold Coast Business News, that the Budget was not just about roads, rates and rubbish.

“As councilors we have showed our business skills in this budget. There was more of a need to go the extra length this budget. The business communities are seeing it tough. While our rates are going up the overheads for businesses remain the same,” he says.

“The office space vacancy of 25 per cent sent me a message that I’ve got to be mindful that the rates on those properties that are vacant, there’s a liability. Now we can’t take the liability completely off, but we can soften the blow and give that business confidence that we are responding and I have responded.”

Sarroff plans to target Brisbane as the first stop on the business roadshow, followed by interstate locations in an attempt to lure investment dollars into the Gold Coast.

“The roadshow is not a one-month project, it’s a long-term project,” he says.

“Our first stop has to be Brisbane, it’s only just up the road. Let’s bring Brisbane investors down to the city and let’s show them what’s available here. In isolation these projects don’t have the impact as they do when you can combine them together and ‘sell’ them as a package.

“We have to go back to Sydney and Melbourne too. I have commenced the process for our economic development people. We want to say here’s our infrastructure and we want to show it to the rest of the country. The selling starts now and I invite business, big and small to come and talk with us.

“The business attraction scheme will showcase what’s available in our city and once they understand that you can rent or buy warehousing and office space for a considerably less price than Sydney and Melbourne, it becomes appealing.

“Bearing in mind that you have an operation that is a national operation it makes no difference whether you are based in Sydney, Melbourne or the Gold Coast.”

Sarroff says the Budget also allocated funds of around $1.6 million toward an export assistance scheme to help open up offshore opportunities.

For the record, Council decided on a 4.48 per cent rate rise, equating to an average $65 more in rates and charges.

Announcements included; tourism allocation $20 million; Carrara Stadium $10m; $5.5m for marketing bodies such as Broadbeach Alliance, Surfers Paradise Alliance and Connecting Southern Gold Coast; $13.4 m to complete the Surfers Paradise foreshore redevelopment; and $14m for drainage and flood-proofing the city; as well as existing financial commitments on the light rail.

But according to the Gold Coast’s Urban Development Institute of Australia, job-creating opportunities were sidelined.

Branch vice-president Steve Harrison says the stimulus investment that had helped the city at the height of the Global Financial Crisis was close to being ‘dried up’.

“The Budget has delivered a modest rate rise for residents, but it appears not much for workers,’’ says Harrison.

“Infrastructure items such as the Surfers Paradise Foreshore Redevelopment are continuing, but it appears the well of stimulus opportunities has dried up. The next major item we have to wait for is the start of Light Rail construction next year.

“The Budget shows a drop in economic development activities of more than $20 million in the 2010-11 financial year which will be a concern for the workforce.’’

Developer contributions are expected to drop from $68.7 million in 2009-10 to just $15.1m next financial year.

Council attributed the loss in contributions to the transfer of Gold Coast Water assets to the regional entity, Allconnex Water. However, the UDIA believes the difficult climate for developers, including high infrastructure charges and finance constraints, had impinged on the level of activity.

“Council has signalled a drop in available developer contributions of 78 per cent between this year and 2010-11,” says Harrison.

Harrison called on the Council to renew its Priority Infrastructure Plan discounts, which provided discounts to 35 development applications earlier this year.

The $4m discount scheme was exhausted within minutes of it commencing, incredibly Council received more than120 applications for assistance from the development industry in one day.

Sarroff says Council will have a look at how to best to assist the building industry further given the overwhelming response to the initiative, but reprehended critics.

“It’s easy to criticise the current council and its administration,” he says.

“The budget process was opened, we encouraged public attendance and their was no attendance from some of the critics. If those critics attended the budget process they would have seen documents on my desk that were six inches thick, with 600 tags, followed by lines of questions. Line by line we went through and we trimmed $30 million off the budget.”

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