‘Scandalous’: State holding out on start-ups
THE State Government has been rolling out its troops, most notably State Development and Manufacturing Minister Cameron Dick and Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones, to promote small businesses pivoting to making new products to battle coronavirus.
So City Beat spies are asking why funding for a popular program that allows small companies to get their ideas off the ground is being delayed.
The Ignite Ideas Fund, which operated under the Advance Queensland program, has given millions of dollars in grants in recent years to small firms.
However the latest round of grants to about 60 firms that was supposed to be announced in March is being held and now reassessed due to the pandemic.
A City Beat spy, who worked with several companies last October on their submissions to the fund, says it's "scandalous" that these budgeted funds have been withheld in the current environment.
"It would be a great stimulus in the current environment for the businesses but the State Government seems have just abandoned it," the spy tells your diarist.
"I know at least two companies who were short-listed and asked to compile incredibly detailed applications. Short-listed companies are scared to speak up for fear of being black-listed."
Past recipients of the fund have included Eidsvold Siltstone, which turns sandstone dust into green cement, Hydrox, which specialises in plastic mulch, and PowerWells, a social enterprise that is recycling old batteries and computer bits.
One would have thought Cameron Dick, who is so keen to promote manufacturing in the state and loves to have himself photographed shaking hands with factory workers, would have fought for the fund to be retained. But yesterday a spokesperson directed queries to Jones who is directly responsible for the fund.
JONES' department sent a letter to Ignite Fund applicants on April 2 saying it realised that some time had passed since they had made their submissions, but the department could not provide any update on "outcome time frames" as it is solely at the minister's discretion.
"The minister and department are very aware of the pressures on businesses at the moment and the importance of the funding to those that were short-listed," the letter said. "Coronavirus was an unexpected event when the application process started and we are well aware of impacts it is having on economy."
Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development director-general Damien Walker Friday assured all applicants that the fund not been aborted.
"At a time when everyone is struggling, we owe it to taxpayers to go through an extensive due diligence process," said Mr Walker. "That is exactly what the Department of Innovation and our independent selection panel are doing." The department had not set a March deadline for the round.
SOME good news apparently for workers at troubled North Queensland resources company Consolidated Tin Mines (CTM), with majority shareholder Cyan Stone saying it will step in to pay outstanding wages and entitlements owed to employees.
CTM announced in March that it was putting its Mount Garnet and surveyor project operations onto care and maintenance with all employees, other than those required for maintenance, stood down without pay. Cyan Stone, which has a history of propping up the company, said it is disappointed that a number of employees had not had wages paid as a result of its trading difficulties.
Former NSW Premier Morris Iemma earlier this year departed the Cairns-based company where he has been a director since August 2018. CTM has had rather a chequered history in the mining game and nearly collapsed in 2016 owing more than $50 million. CTM has been asked to comment on the offer from Cyan Stone.
REGIONAL fuel supplier Lowes Petroleum is a good example of a company responding well to the challenges of coronavirus. The company is holding virtual "field days" for farmers seeking to troubleshoot problems and keep up to date on the fuel market.
The company's head of sales and marketing Sharon White says that while physical field days will never be replaced the virtual environment would keep rural communities linked into latest market changes. Lowes has partnered with experts from Castrol and BP to reach out to farmers, heavy and livestock transport operators, civil and earth moving companies among other sectors to share market insights and changes.
Originally published as 'Scandalous': State holding out on start-ups