Business start ups set a pace
Enterprising Pilbarians have set the groundwork for a small business boom, with more than 1750 business names registered since 2014, while mobile and new business owners snap up bargain bricks-and-mortar premises.
Australian Business Register statistics provided by the City of Karratha show 941 new business names were registered in the Pilbara in 2014-15 and 832 in 2015-16.
Of those, 765 were registered in the City of Karratha, 704 in the Town of Port Hedland, 153 in Ashburton, and 151 in the East Pilbara.
About one-third of businesses on the ABR in the city were registered with the Australian Taxation Office.
Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry vicepresident Robin Vandenberg said Karratha’s economy still compared favourably to other regional cities in WA.
“The Karratha economy and business environment is not as bad as a lot of people are making it out to be,” he said.
“Affordability of housing, commercial space, labour costs, all those key indicators have come down, which is then enabling people to go out with some sort of confidence and set up a business.”
Ray White Karratha commercial industrial sales and leasing manager Shane Smith said Ray White had negotiated and signed 20 new commercial properties last month, well above the average even during the boom.
“We’re getting tenants moving around into better premises for less money, but the majority is new clients to town,” he said.
“We’re seeing anything from small mechanics coming out of working from a truck to companies the size of Austin Engineering.
“They’ve looked in the area for three years for space and have now secured a premises in Seabrook
which is brand new, suits their corporate image and is half the price they would have paid two years ago.”
Mr Smith said there were fewer than 70 vacancies now, down from more than 100 at one stage.
Former mobile mechanics Clark Smith and Carl Dooney are two Karratha residents who have made use of the changing economic climate.
They purchased a block in the Light Industrial Area to start NW Mechanical Solutions for a fraction of what it would have cost at the height of the boom. Mr Dooney said the move was still a risk, but one which had paid off.
“Productivity is through the roof compared to mobile,” he said.
“If you are thinking about it and you think you can make it work, you have the right attitude already.
“We might do a couple more hours here and there to make it work, but it is feasible these days.”
Mr Dooney said if new businesses could make it work while things were quiet, they would be laughing when the economy picked up again.