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Big things come in small packages: Queensland's SMEs drive thriving economy


“Since 2020 Queensland has had higher annual population growth than other Australian states, driven by record interstate migration combined with fewer people choosing to leave the state.”

I’m often asked why I choose to work in the small to medium enterprise (SME) sector. The passion and tenacity of business owners, as well as the potential for our customer support to positively impact Australia’s economy, are just two of many reasons. 


Australian SMEs are disproportionately impactful in terms of economic growth, jobs creation and the nation’s psyche. Of the 2.6 million businesses in Australia, it’s estimated 98 per cent are SMEs – so almost all of us are connected to a small business owner in some way. 


When you walk down the street of a regional or rural community you can sense whether the economy is thriving based on how many shopfronts are occupied and how busy the main street is. When a town’s main street is buzzing, it feels good.


That’s something Townsville’s Rob Aumend from Otto’s Group can relate to. The business has grown from a single marketplace to a multifaceted offering including two drive-through coffee shops, two markets, a café, restaurants and convenience stores. 



“The customer experience is really designed around the products that we hand make. Something you can’t buy anywhere else,” Aumend says. “The growth journey has been something of a necessity at times. The growth into the drive-through coffee shops was absolute necessity. They were a booming business and good cash flow during COVID when our marketplaces didn’t necessarily have those opportunities because of the shutdowns.”


Queensland is home to more than 452,000 small businesses. The most significant small business industries include construction; rental, hiring and real estate; professional, scientific and technical; agriculture, forestry and fishing and financial and insurance.


Since 2020 Queensland has had higher annual population growth than other Australian states, driven by record interstate migration combined with fewer people choosing to leave the state. The pandemic presented more flexible work for many and living close to major hubs like Melbourne or Sydney is no longer a necessity. Queensland’s relaxed culture and great weather makes it an obvious choice for many wanting to relocate and work remotely.


For businesses in destinations such as Townsville, migration has delivered many new potential customers with unique preferences. ANZ’s latest in-depth report, Queensland: Future State suggests this trajectory will continue due to strong population growth and the highly successful resources, agriculture and tourism sectors. Queensland’s economy is forecast to grow by 31 per cent over the decade to 2033.


However, there’s an opportunity to accelerate that growth through emerging sectors – for example, critical minerals and hydrogen. This could see Queensland’s economy expand by a further 10 per cent which will benefit not only big business, but the many small businesses working throughout supply chains.


As Queensland continues to look for ways to diversify its economy, we’re focused on working with our customers to understand the opportunities available to them and how we can best support their goals.


In a growth environment, the role of a bank can be vital in helping a business to understand and fund their working capital requirements. Many times our insights on an industry sector, or our relationship with larger companies within a specific supply chain, enable us to lend more than if these relationships didn’t exist.


And Rob Aumend is already thinking about the future growth of Otto’s Group.   


“What’s next for us is possibly a little bit more diversification in Townsville. Or the opportunity to take this model either closer or a little bit further away,” he says.


However, rapid growth can also lead to cash flow challenges. Banks can support customers through a range of means including trade lines. It’s important for businesses to interact regularly with their bank, so challenges can be overcome and the many opportunities in Queensland can be realised.  


Clare Morgan is Group Executive, Commercial at ANZ

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