A COMMITMENT to work with small businesses affected by infrastructure projects could see the City of Greater Bendigo assessing impacts on each enterprise.
The recommendation forms part of a set of guidelines developed by the Victorian Small Business Commission for small business engagement when planning new works.
Bendigo council yesterday became the 19th municipality to sign a Small Business Friendly Charter.
One of the charter commitments is for councils to work with small businesses disrupted by infrastructure projects.
Victorian small business commissioner Judy O'Connell said a lack of communication about infrastructure works between local governments and small businesses was noted during the development of the charter.
"A lot of the time the first time the small business knows that there's an infrastructure project happening is when there's a jackhammer out the front," she said.
"And so this would be working with them throughout the whole project."
She said signatories had also committed to sharing information about state government services available to provide support.
Small business owners should expect participating councils to refer to the Victorian Small Business Commission's Small Business Engagement Guidelines when planning new works.
They should expect councils to request external project managers to do likewise.
Story continues below guidelines
The Small Business Commission is understood to have intended this recommendation to apply to works undertaken by council.
"That said, the guidelines themselves are intentionally broad," a Commission spokesperson said.
"They are designed to be tailored to meet specific projects and regions."
The guidelines suggest project managers undertake impact assessments, communications strategies and 'disruption mitigation' plans to support small businesses through works.
One of the first suggested steps is compiling a list of businesses likely to be affected by the project, then determining the scale of the impact.
"Develop a small business impact report for each business," the guidelines recommend.
The guidelines also recommend compiling a report on impacts on the overall area likely to be affected.
Project managers are then recommended to provide affected small businesses with a key summary of what is planned, along with feedback, engagement and regular updates at every stage.
The disruption mitigation plan would cover considerations for the construction process, marketing support to help raise awareness of affected businesses, and education and tools that could be provided that would otherwise assist with their operation.
Alternative dispute resolution was also among the suggested discussion topics.
"Any efforts that can be made to demonstrate flexibility and accommodate the interests of small businesses will save costs further down the track and assist the project to run smoothly," the guidelines state.
Small businesses affected by infrastructure projects should also receive a guide, compiled by the commission, for managing disruption.
A number of large-scale infrastructure projects are in the pipelines for the Bendigo city centre, including a $90 million GovHub, new law courts and a number of new and refurbished Bendigo TAFE buildings.
All of these projects are state-led.
Story continues below charter
As part of the same charter, the Small Business Commission has promised to advocate on behalf of small businesses with authorities that undertake major works.
It has also promised to work with councils to "develop practical initiatives that benefit small businesses."
Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke said there was still work to be done to help small businesses.
"Signing this charter demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with the VSBC and our 7900 small businesses so that they can thrive in a growing Greater Bendigo," Cr O'Rourke said.
"We think it's a really important agreement."
Speeding up approvals processes, providing prompt payments, and making information for small businesses clear and concise were among the other inclusions in the charter.
"What we were finding was the biggest challenges for small businesses are being paid on time," the commissioner said.
Councils involved in the charter have committed to pay small businesses within 30 days.
"Any small business that has got a dispute with government agencies can come to us. We were finding in some instances it was the councils they had disputes with," Ms O'Connell said.
"A lot of it was about infrastructure works, so we thought let's work together on these issues."
She said it was great to see the City of Greater Bendigo demonstrate a genuine want to work together to give local businesses the support they needed to do business.
Cr O'Rourke said the city had already achieved many of the key commitments outlined in the charter, such as implementing a more user-friendly permit approvals process for small businesses, prompt payments of invoices, and a Business Help Desk.
"The VSBC will contact us 12 months after signing the charter to assess out commitments," she said.
Other involved central Victorian councils include the shires of Mount Alexander and Gannawarra.
The charter was launched in May.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.