Vic councils roll out investment officers to ease permit process

As the dedicated Investment Facilitation Officer for Victoria’s Greater Shepparton City Council, Lisa Kubeil is on a mission to help local small businesses get on their feet.

Mayor Shane Sali

Ms Kubeil liaises directly with local businesses around the council permit progress and keeps them up to date on the progress of applications.

Mayor Shane Sali says establishing the position is an acknowledgement that navigating the various council departments can be challenging for small businesses, especially in a diverse multicultural LGA like Shepparton.

“Businesses will often need one or more permits before opening their doors,” Cr Sali says. “We want to make the process as efficient as we can so our local operators and new businesses can start working as quickly as possible.”

Smoothing the approval process

The need for the role at a local government level was identified as part of Small Business Victoria’s business-friendly councils approval review. The review is part the government’s Better Approvals of Business Project, which was announced in November 2020 to support economic recovery.

Ms Kubeil, who ran Council’s small business incubator centre before taking up the role of investment facilitation officer 12 months ago, says the initiative is aimed at encouraging the growth of local businesses and supporting the local economy.

“It first came about when small business Victoria identified the need for the role and they went around and visited local councils, and we workshopped what the role would look like,”  she told Government News.

“There are quite a few different models popping up through local councils – some are called business concierges, or investment specialisation co-ordinators.

“It’s different names but we all do the same thing, in that we facilitate meetings with small businesses with all the multiple departments within council that they need to get permits from.

“When it’s a single applicant I give them preliminary information in terms of what permit across what departments they’ll need.

“In some cases where it’s a larger business or a multi permit application, I’ll set up a meeting where I get everyone in the same room to discuss the permits they’ll need and what they need to do to get them.”

Multiple permits

For example, something as simple as opening a restaurant can require permits across planning, building, environmental health, and local laws.

Ms Kubeil says some of the most common difficulties relate to businesses wanting to open up or expand into an existing building, which triggers what can be a lengthy and expensive change of use permit.

“Having the support of the role to help them along the way helps people understand those challenges up front, so they’re not getting along in the process then being hit with an unexpected requirement that might affect the viability of their business,” she says.

Since having a soft launch of the role 12 months ago Ms Kubeil says she’s been getting a “healthy flow” of businesses coming her way.

“Now we’re launching more broadly I’m thinking there’s going to be a huge take-up of people wanting this assistance,” she says.

“I would say that this role will be very much in demand once we start really promoting it to the community.”

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