Linking desert businesses: the impetus, the practicalities, the emerging pay-offs, and building on the experiences
|Title||Linking desert businesses: the impetus, the practicalities, the emerging pay-offs, and building on the experiences|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|Authors||Taylor J., Ffowcs-Williams I., & Crowe M.|
|Journal||The Rangeland Journal|
|Keywords||business clusters, business networks, commercial network, economic development, information technology, small and medium enterprise|
Small businesses in desert Australia are disadvantaged by remoteness from suppliers and markets, workforce problems, and limited opportunities to explore alliances across the desert. This paper outlines an initiative to support and encourage capacity building in remote desert centres and to create networks to overcome the isolation experienced by desert-based small and medium-sized enterprises. Building on existing local initiatives and seizing the opportunities offered by a range of new information and communication technologies (ICT), businesses are linked together to explore the benefits of networking, to identify possible synergies and opportunities for collaboration, to gain practical ICT and networking skills and confidence in the processes, and create real outcomes for their business.The initiative began with a pilot project focused on training and mentoring business owners and managers in business clustering. In addition to education and training outcomes, this pilot produced more outcomes for the participating businesses than had been anticipated. In the final year $7 million of new business was reported. Many businesses embraced this way of working together to improve competitiveness; as a consequence the networks have continued to operate beyond the life of the pilot project. Several case studies are presented to demonstrate how ICT has been used for the transfer of ideas and knowledge, for collaboration, and to open new commercial opportunities for businesses that arose as a direct result of their participation.Proof of concept has been demonstrated in the value to businesses of this approach to long-distance inter-business cooperation and networking. The paper outlines key findings from the pilot project, including the needs for an appropriate pace of development, mix of technologies used, nurturing of business champions, flexibility, local facilitation, and real business outcomes, among others. These findings are being used to inform future developments in long-distance, cross-border business networking internationally and an expanded project involving nine regions of desert Australia.