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May 11, 2021

MP Justine Elliot questions sale of small incubator sites by NORTEC

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Richmond MP Justine Elliot.

Justine Elliot, Labor’s federal member for Richmond has made urgent representation to the minister for jobs and innovation, Senator Michaelia Cash regarding NORTECs termination of leases for the small businesses at their three small business incubator sites at Mullumbimby, Goonellabah and Byron Bay. She has also raised concerns over the sale of the Byron Bay and Goonellabah sites.

NORTEC is an employment and training provider that receives government funding to run projects including NEIS programs, small business support and numeracy and literacy access programs. They have recently closed all three incubator sites and have listed the Byron Bay site for sale. The Mullumbimby site is not owned by NORTEC.

‘These incubator sites were developed from a local commitment to business growth and innovation. I’m advised that they were handed to NORTEC in good faith with the understanding that they would be held in trust for the local community,’ said Ms Elliot in her letter to the minister.

‘I’ve been further advised that all these incubators were funded by a combination of community assets and funding from State and Federal Governments.’

Local entrepreneur and self-made millionaire George Lewin also contributed $125,000 towards both the Mullumbimby and the Goonellabah site during their development stages.

As you can appreciate there is widespread community concern firstly about the sudden closure of the business incubator sites and secondly that the government funded small incubator facilities are now being sold off,’ continued Elliot.

‘Can the Minister please urgently advise what action the Turnbull Government will be taking in terms of investigating the sale of these government funded sites and also what action the government will be taking to ensure the future provision of business incubator sites for our region.’

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  1. Justine,
    This is indeed an interesting question.
    ‘Can the Minister please urgently advise what action the Turnbull Government will be taking in terms of investigating the sale of these government funded sites and also what action the government will be taking to ensure the future provision of business incubator sites for our region.’

    Being government funded, logically the government wants to discontinue funding these sites and therefore it means the incubators are on the market for a private buyer to buy and fund them themselves. That is risky in the slack business market in the area where there are empty shops.
    Maybe that is not the logic as a public/private partnership could be struck where the partnership is a business deal where both government and investor makes a return on investment and that means fees and charges could rise. A move like that also could become political as success could become a political aim and tool as part of the incubators success.

  2. It has been a very very stressful and also very expensive time for all of us affected by this last minute eviction notification to our business just prior to Christmas. Much higher rent and large bond to find just as we try to have some leave without pay. Needless to say it interfered with our travel plans too. Not impressed by NORTEC’s concept of incubation / start up assistance. Will eagerly await some answers.

  3. It seems Nortec has taken some rather slippery steps ethically in attempting to sell these sites. Just because they “legally” can; surely ethically they should not. It seems in direct opposition to the role they are meant to pursue as a government funded entity. Perhaps the government can squash/dissolve this naughty acquisitive business before it does any more harm in the community. AND stop the sale! Or…if its “legally” too late for that, perhaps they can seize the ill gotten gains and redistribute them to the poor clients they’ve turfed out.

    (and could someone please tell us more about who is the shifty one at Nortec that came up with this plan?)

  4. Nortec, I am sure, started as a service industry. But it does seem now, there is a lot of getting government money to pay for minimal person to person assistance. And having accessed some of the incubator program, I thoroughly questioned the whole way they did it, i.e. hiring a Melbourne website person to come and train for a few hours at a cost of $60 for the day, and whole day seemed to be an ad for a website building service in USA that costs US dollars on a monthly basis. Strange choice to serve new businesses in rural regional Australia.


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