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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

NORTEC won’t properly compensate businesses

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It is the little businesses that were just trying to get on their feet that will suffer most by NORTECs move to abandon its small business incubators.

Businesses at the Byron Creative incubator site in the Byron Bay industrial estate have asked NORTEC for an extension of time to leave the site and arrange alternative business premises but have been told that January 19 is a hard deadline.

Michael Brechbuhler from Eco Minerals had been on the site for five years and has resources behind him to successfully move to a new site, however, it is the smaller newer businesses that he is concerned for.

While Eco Minerals will move on from this short notice decision by Nortec, other business owners are being destroyed by it. I have listened to the stories of Jarrah and Jake and how they were promised long term rental spaces for the next three years, just a couple of months ago and they poured their savings into building up their dreams,’ said Michael.

Jarrah at Jarrah Hustler Hair and Jake at Jake May Design have both invested a great deal of money, work and love into the infrastructure of their offices and are now at the risk of losing all of it.’

No compensation

Some of the businesses have asked NORTEC for a degree of compensation for the business losses they will be making as a result of both broken promises by NORTEC and the short notice for moving.

‘NORTEC is about to make a great deal of money from an indecent decision that will cost many little businesses their existence,’ continued Michael.

‘And now they are bickering with those same financially destroyed small business owners and refusing to pay them any kind of real compensation that would be a minute slice of the enormous profits they are likely to make from this sale.’

NORTEC right to sell assets disputed

Gary Bargh who was the BETC manager from 1989 until its merger with TTEC in 2007 that created NORTEC and Business Incubator & Innovation Australia board member Amanda Kenyon both believe that the incubators are community assets and should be passed onto an organisation that could continue to support small business incubation.

BTEC developed the Ballina incubator in 1993, the Byron incubator site in 1999 and arranged the finance for Goonellabah incubator site which was completed under NORTEC. Garry has stated that, ‘The Ballina and Byron incubators were funded by a combination of community assets and cash from the sate and federal governments.’

‘The majority of the funding came from the federal government. After completion of a contract period the assets were owned by the community organisation.

When the merger took place in 2007 the incubators were self-sustaining and free of debt. The income from the tenants was covering the operational costs of the incubators and the understanding was that these community assets would remain in the community in trust and managed by NORTEC.

‘Before 2007 TTEC, the precursor to NORTEC, had nothing to do with and had made no financial contribution to the incubator development or the facilitation of these sites.’

Ms Kenyon supported Gary’s assertions stating that, ‘They are community assets and have been established with tax payer funds from government to assist the area to grow and prosper.’

‘Any community needs a strong business base in order to survive and in an area like the north coast where 95 per cent of businesses employ under five people they need all the help they can get to survive in these difficult times.

‘Many people in the North Coast community have contributed their time, energy, and expertise over many years to ensure these facilities operate and successfully assist business to establish, growth and create jobs and wealth in the local area.’

Gary, supported by Amanda, has suggested that, ‘A solution would be for NORTEC to hand the incubators over to an organisation prepared to take over their management. If this is not done, the sale of these valuable assets will be seen as nothing but a cash grab.’

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  1. A 100% cash grab. Nortec hit hard times when they changed their service delivery model in July 2015 with the Jobactive program. This led to a reduction in floor staff and consequently hit their bottom line with performance and income dramatically reduced. The upper management were either too incompetent or too belligerent to change despite the feedback they were getting from very experienced and knowledgeable staff and subsequently bled large amounts of money. They have sold off assets before which had been obtained with more than generous help from the taxpayer. They have also got substantial discounts from councils over the years for these premises. Thankfully most of the upper management has been moved on, although the taxpayer, jobseekers, staff and now small business operators have been left to pick up the pieces. It is high time that all these job agencies were investigated more thoroughly from top to bottom!


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