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Byron Shire
May 7, 2021

NORTEC incubators hit the market as original investor ‘shocked at tactics’

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Local entrepreneur George Lewin contributed significant funds to NORTEC’s small-business incubators. NORTEC are now selling them for profit, having evicted small businesses before Christmas. Photo University of Newcastle.

NORTEC has now listed the Byron Bay small-business incubator site for sale through a local real estate as a ‘very rare opportunity to purchase a substantial holding in an area of low vacancy and high demand.’

The site is offered as vacant possession that is a ‘commercial gem [is] located in the Byron Bay Arts & Industry Estate and comprises a freestanding building of 14 tenancies on a land area of 1,598sqm.’

However, local entrepreneur and self-made millionaire George Lewin is disappointed at the sale of both the Byron and Goonellabah sites and the closure of the Mullumbimby site as he contributed financially towards their development.

‘In the 2011/12 financial year, I donated $25,000 to the Goonellabah small-business incubator and in years prior to that, I contributed $100,000 to CLIC in Mullumbimby’ that NORTEC operated as a small-business development site.

‘I contributed the money because I understood that NORTEC was a not-for-profit,’ continued Mr Lewin.

‘I understood that it would be used to support young entrepreneurs. I was one of those in the seventies.’

Triton workbench

Mr Lewin invented the Triton workbench and in 1976 appeared on the ABC TV show The Inventors, which launched his invention, and from that point he was able to create a successful business.

‘It was phenomenal for me and I have a soft spot for inventors, entrepreneurs and young business startups,’ continued Mr Lewin.

‘The sale of these sites is very disappointing to me. I was hoping that these incubators would be sustainably run by NORTEC. I put my money in to help them get there in the hope that they would help others get started in their businesses.’

NORTEC have listed the property as ‘offered to the market as a vacant possession, meaning all the low-rent tenants are out,’ said Eco Minerals director Michael Brechbuhle, one of the businesses thrown off the Byron incubator site over the Christmas period.

‘The projected gross income (for the Byron site) is $218,400 which is a huge amount, roughly three to four times more than the total rent income NORTEC gets now.’

Not responsible

Mr Lewin concluded that he ‘was shocked at the tactics NORTEC are using including the time of year they are evicting people. It is not responsible.

‘I am angry at the fact they are taking this approach and they are looking to make a profit from the buildings

‘It is legal but it is not in the spirit of the donations and development of these sites.’

NORTEC has been contacted for comment regarding this issue, but is yet to reply to The Echo.

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  1. Nortec describes itself on its website as a ‘community-owned organisation.’ As a co-owner of the organisation, by virtue of living within the region, I would like to voice my concerns at this unethical-seeming behaviour. It might also be an appropriate time to look at Nortec’s business structure and financial arrangements, given that it dresses itself up as a social business, but is behaving in a highly capitalistic fashion.

  2. The evictions and the sale of incubator sites appear to be contrary to Nortec’s own stated purposes, the intent of its public funding sources, and possibly to its own constitution. While Nortec has title to the properties and is thus entitled, in that respect, to sell the incubator sites, the reason for and the ethics of the sales require some explanation to the community at the very least, especially since these assets were originally acquired through community and charitable funding. Nortec is registered as a public benevolent organisation with ACNC and unless there is some disclosure of how the monies raised from the sales is necessitated, and how the proceeds will be fed back into it’s benevolent activities one has to question not only the ethics of the decision, but also the legality of its charitable status and exemption from taxation. How about some disclosure Nortec? What is the rationale behind these asset sales, and where exactly shall the proceeds of the sales be allocated?


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