The State Government is encouraging small to medium-sized businesses in Western Australia to compete with overseas imports.
Small Business Minister Gordon Hill announced today that existing import replacement initiatives would be expanded to help WA businesses win a greater slice of the State's $3.5 billion importation industry.
"Import replacement refers to the local manufacture of goods to compete with, and ultimately replace, imported goods," Mr Hill said.
"The current level of imports to WA - comprised mainly of value added products - is significantly high.
"This indicates that the potential exists for local manufacturers to enter the market and replace some of the $3.5 billion worth of goods and tradeable services imported to the State each year with their own products," he said.
"Small to medium-sized businesses can have an advantage over larger concerns - due to their size and more flexible operating structures, they can adapt quickly to changing market trends, and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
"However, many small businesses can neither afford to employ specialised managers nor undertake extensive market research and market promotion.
"This means they are often handicapped in both identifying and realising import replacement opportunities."
Mr Hill said this was where the State Government - in consultation with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA, and other small business representatives - came in.
"We need to further identify what products and services are currently being imported, and how viable it is for local manufacturers to compete with imported products," he said.
"At the same time, it will be important to make companies which now rely on overseas suppliers, aware of the benefits that buying locally manufactured goods and services can bring."
Mr Hill said the new initiatives would include:
· holding an Expo in Perth, called `Can You Make It', which would expose major purchasers in WA to the supply opportunities offered by local manufacturers and suppliers;
· a seminar on import replacement opportunities and Government assistance for small businesses who wanted to become involved in import replacement;
· a series of feasibility studies to identify import replacement opportunities in WA, and provide guidance on how these could be met by local industry;
· a 'Try WA' hotline, put in place as a contact point for inquiries on import replacement.
Mr Hill said replacing imports with locally produced goods had obvious benefits for the economy and job creation.
Quoting from a report produced by Professor Ron Jensen of the University of Queensland, Mr Hill said that for every $1 million invested in import replacement activities:
· about 30 full-time jobs were created for one year;
· $280,000 was generated in taxes and charges to all three levels of Government;
· $255,000 was added to consumer spending power;
· $231,000 was saved in welfare expenditure.
"The challenge now is how effectively Government and industry can work together to take advantage of the import replacement opportunities available in Western Australia," Mr Hill said.