Mixed feelings among Hunter business owners

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As the nation continues to lower COVID-19 infection rates, business in the Hunter is slowly returning to normal.

Hunter Business Chamber Chief Executive Bob Hawes.

The latest edition of Business NSW’s Business Conditions Survey reveals the first spike in business confidence in 12 months.

Hunter Business Chamber Chief Executive, Bob Hawes, was relieved to see this good news come out of such a tough year.

“2020 has been a horrible year so the strong increase in business confidence is a welcome boost and supports government decisions that have backed a business-led recovery,” he said.

Perceptions have improved since a record low in June, with over 35% of survey respondents more optimistic about their business prospects.

Locally, Mr Hawes believed there was mixed feelings across the region.

While the Hunter Valley experienced a strong bounce-back, the same results did not carry across to Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.

In this area, business confidence remained subdued.

In terms of employment, the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie area showed only 7.3% of businesses had an increase in staff while in the Hunter Valley a quarter expanded their teams.

“We are still seeing some variability at a regional level, with some businesses reluctant to invest, hire and train staff despite there being significant government assistance and incentives available to them,” Mr Hawes said.

While the increase in confidence has been welcomed Mr Hawes said the statistics confirmed an ongoing uncertainty about the unstable business environment.

“While anecdotally we are seeing more business activity, many owners and managers remain reticent to expand due to uncertainty about long-term business prospects,” he said.

To further encourage business owners, Hunter Business Chamber and Business NSW are calling on the NSW Government to continue to support the local economy.

“The survey was completed prior to the handing down of the federal budget and we hope some of the budget incentives for spending on capital equipment and also apprentice and training support will move the dial positively again in the December quarter,” Mr Hawes said.