HORSHAM’S business community has used a biannual survey to call on governments to develop an effective scheme to attract and retain more medical specialists and general practitioners to the Wimmera.
Business Horsham has released the latest results of a survey tracking confidence levels in the Horsham economy.
The survey was based on the six months from January to June, with responses collected over four weeks in July and August.
Surveyors also asked businesses to identify the most significant strategy that could help Horsham’s economy.
The overwhelming majority said a medical scheme was vital, with the underlying objective to retain and stimulate population growth to help create business opportunities.
Survey co-ordinator Brian Watts said the response sent a clear message to political parties.
“This will inevitably be a political solution, which must include economic incentives for the appropriate medical personnel to be attracted to Horsham to serve both the city and the wider area,” he said.
“This is not a want, it’s a need – it’s essential for our region.
“Years ago when kids went to uni to become doctors, there were scholarships to attract them to practice for so many years in rural areas.
It begs the question, is that system still current and working, or does it need to be enhanced?
“It's going to be economics that gets the right people to the Wimmera. If they want us to prosper, we need that help at a political level.”
The survey also found business confidence levels were down across most industries compared with the previous six months.
Mr Watts said about 30 per cent of respondents believed Horsham’s economy would improve in the next six months, while about 40 per cent expected they would worsen.
“In the survey prior we were coming off a good harvest. Primary producers are the biggest business sector in the Wimmera, so how they’re travelling impacts the economy,” he said.
“If it’s a dry season like this year, the sentiment swings.
“Sentiment swings in a volatile way – it hinges on the weather and the climatic conditions we face.
“There’s definitely a negative trend overall at the moment, but that could swing massively back the other way if we turn out to have a good year.”
Mr Watts said results showed businesses were less optimistic about conditions in Horsham than the national economy, a significant reversal from the previous survey.
“I have noticed over the years that quite often, we’re opposite to the national results,” he said.
“That’s because we are impacted more by the local conditions than national ones.”
Mr Watts said the survey had evolved in the nine years since it started.
He said Business Horsham used the results to lobby politicians and Horsham Rural City Council.
“We meet with council regularly to share this information and also provide other feedback from our members,” he said.
“We draw their attention to issues and concerns the business sector has.
“We also direct the survey results to our political representatives in Emma Kealy and Andrew Broad.
“We draw the attention from those spheres of influence.”
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