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Publisher's Guests - Mayor Dr Michelle Byrne, Councillor Reena Jethi (Deputy Mayor) The Hills Shire Council

BiziNet: Sydney Hills is known as one of the most, if not the most, business-oriented regions in NSW. 2-3 decades ago, no one would even think about the growth we have seen in Norwest Business Park and the whole Hills Business District. Could you please highlight what the future entails for the Hills Business Community?

MB: Council's three strategic centres - Norwest, Castle Hill and Rouse Hill - will be the cornerstone of jobs growth in the Hills over the next five years.

Longer term, Council is well positioned to deliver an estimated 50,600 new jobs by 2036. In particular, Norwest Strategic Centre, which extends from Old Windsor Road right through the Business Park to the Castle Hill trading zone, could deliver up to 20,600 extra jobs. It appears we are on track to achieving this target, with additional capacity beyond 2036.

We are also creating opportunities for new industrial and commercial jobs in the Box Hill Business Park and Annangrove Employment Land with long term capacity for 28,000 jobs.

Our health services are booming. In fact, it's our fastest growing industry. With two hospitals in operation and a third proposed for Rouse Hill, more jobs will open up in this space.

A focus will be needed on the urgent delivery of regional transport links, like the Outer Sydney Orbital, Norwest to Parramatta mass transit link and a North South Rail Line extension, from St Marys to Rouse Hill via Schofields. These essential links will help to connect our emerging employment areas and the North West and South West growth areas to the new Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

BiziNet: In recent times Council has been taking clear steps not only to attract Australian enterprises to do business in the Hills, but to also invite international investors and companies to operate in the region. What specific initiatives are in place today on offer for Australian and International investors?

MB: Council plays a major role in supplying marketing intelligence, including census data, employment numbers and trends over time. Council also works closely with commercial real estate agents, providing assistance to these companies who are in detailed site selection discussions. We have strong links with the local business chambers in the region and work closely with them to improve opportunities to do business in the Hills. We want businesses to come to the Hills and to grow and evolve here - it is not only great for our local economy but provides local employment opportunities for our residents.

Norwest Business Park in many ways has been a victim of it's own success with traffic becoming a limiting factor in attracting new businesses and keeping the here in the Hills. However, the delivery of the Metro North West has been a game changer for businesses in the region, connecting us to other parts of Sydney and reducing traffic through the business park. The Norwest Park is again beginning to grow with many new businesses now appearing.

We know that infrastructure is one of the keys to attracting businesses including large multinationals to the Hills. On top of the Metro, we are continuing to advocate for further regional transport links such as Outer Sydney Orbital, Norwest to Parramatta mass transit link and a North South Rail Line extension to the new Western Sydney Aerotropolis. These links will further improve businesses opportunities in the Hills and make the Hills a more attractive place to establish and do business.

BiziNet: Could you provide some comments in regards to your work with the state and federal governments to further improve economic climate in the region?

MB: We are constantly talking to our state and federal colleagues to ensure that we continue to drive economic outcomes for the region. For example, this Council has long campaigned for the second airport in western Sydney, the metro rail and prior to that, the upgrades to the M7 and M2. This type of infrastructure is a major catalyst to driving economic growth in our region and allowing businesses to attract employees and customers.

Another way we've done that is through the State Government's Easy to do Business program. Council entered into a MoU with Services NSW, which allows for hospitality business owners to connect with Easy to do Business representatives via Service NSW's website. The program acts as a one-stop-shop for business owners and helps to alleviate any complex processes which affect businesses getting active sooner.

The Hills population is approximately 177,000 however it is expected to reach 290,000 by 2036. The continuous and rapid population growth also contributes to the economic climate, with these new residents requiring access to businesses and services as well as employment.

BiziNet: Reena, you are a Deputy Mayor and also run your own business. You're seen as an SME voice in the Council. Could you provide your vision in regard to the Hills Council initiatives to improve conditions for SMEs in the region?

RJ: Being an SME, I know first-hand about starting a business and growing it from the ground up. It's incredibly hard work and the hours are long. But I wouldn't change it for the world. The experience and knowledge gained from starting my own business was just so invaluable. It was one of the reasons why I decided to pursue a career in local politics. I want to help and support other small business owners and I want to make sure they grow, flourish and remain as a thriving business for years to come.

To help, I've been working closely with Council's Economic Development Team - looking at ways we can attract more businesses to the area, as well as cutting red tape to allow businesses to get started with ease. My vision is to see a thriving Hills economy.

It's also a great time to do business in The Hills. Our community is growing and with the introduction of the Sydney Metro Northwest, opportunities are endless. And to make sure you can capitalise on this new transport link, as well as gain the confidence to take on the global stage - Council is committed to working with businesses to help prepare them for the massive growth and change they will experience in the years ahead.

I highly recommend new and existing businesses or those thinking about starting their own business to book a time with Council's Economic Development team. This is a free service and they can support you at any level of your business journey. There are also ample networking opportunities, including with The Hills Business Chamber, Business Alliance and many more.

BiziNet: What is your personal political agenda for the Hills?

RJ: I see The Hills Shire though multiple perspectives - as a resident, as a mother, as an SME and as Deputy Mayor.

My focus is to facilitate and equip our local businesses with opportunities that will enable them to grow and succeed in a local market. Establishing a business can be difficult but ensuring that the business thrives is an ongoing daily challenge.

It's imperative that every business has access to constant support. My goal for the Hills Shire is to be seen as a collective, self-sustainable entity for existing and new businesses. To develop this environment, we need suitable intellectual capital, strategic partnerships and product and/or services with strong marketplace demand, with the aim of reducing risks to businesses over time. The target should be increasing the retention rate of businesses in The Hills.

Being a mother of two boys, it has always been a dream to see young people achieve all of their milestones within the Hills Shire, such as starting their own family, sending their kids to a local school, gaining work experience with local businesses and employment close to home, before finally retiring in The Hills.

Time is a big factor! It has taken more than two decades for The Hills Shire to see the light at the other end of the tunnel. The Norwest rail link is finally here! It has opened the doors to endless opportunities. Our business community has patiently waited for this time. They are ready to take the next step forward. All they need is the right support from their leaders.

BiziNet: Are there any initiatives on the Council's agenda to eliminate red tape and make small business operations more effective?

RJ: One way we've done that is through the Easy to do Business program. Council entered into a MoU with Services NSW, which allows for hospitality business owners to connect with Easy to do Business representatives via Service NSW's website. There, they will assist in the process of applying for their compliance needs as required by this Council. The program was designed to act as a one-stop-shop for business owners and to alleviate any complex processes which affect businesses getting active sooner.

Another is our annual Performance Sentiment Index (PSI) survey which gauges current and expected business performance across a range of indicators, including conditions and sentiment. The PSI gives a real insight into the challenges and opportunities business owners face and how Council can work hand-in-hand with residents to deliver better economical outcomes for the region.

Council also runs a series of workshops, called Smart Series, that aim to help small business owners to grow, develop and succeed at any stage of their career. There's something to suit most business needs, with options like how to increase 'your business profile in the public domain', 'cash flow and profitability' and 'planning for ongoing success'.

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