REACHING new markets, capitalising on opportunities, growing small businesses and creating local jobs through embracing digital technology will be the focus of the redesigned Australian Small Business Advisory Services program, Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack said.
"The Australian Small Business Advisory Services program, or the ASBAS program, has been overhauled to focus on helping small businesses to get online and reach out to new markets for their goods and services," Mr McCormack said.
"Australian small businesses are looking for opportunities to grow their domestic and international customer base, but are often confronted by hesitation or doubt when it comes to getting online.
"The ASBAS program will allocate $18 million in grants over three years to specialist advisers who will engage with interested small businesses throughout Australia to provide relevant training, expert advice and targeted support to grow businesses through digital platforms.
"As a regional MP, I am focused on ensuring regional small businesses have the same opportunities as their city cousins, so the new ASBAS program providers will cover all areas of Australia from Pitt Street to Peel Street.
"Through programs, such as the new ASBAS program, and the continuing roll-out of the National Broadband Network, the Liberal and Nationals Government is opening up opportunities for regional businesses to compete with the cities and take their products to the world."
In releasing the program guidelines for 2018, Mr McCormack said the reshaped ASBAS program was yet another example of the Turnbull Government backing small business.
"By having digital skills and access to expert advice, small businesses can take advantage of the endless opportunities the digital economy provides here in Australia as well as internationally," Mr McCormack said.
"Small businesses are the true innovators in our economy with many taking on great risks to have-a-go resulting in the sector contributing over $380 billion to the economy annually and jobs for around 5.6 million Australians.
"Repositioning ASBAS will give small businesses the confidence and advice they need to seize the opportunities arising from the evolving digital environment, benefiting the economy and employment opportunities."
Mr McCormack said there were proven benefits for small businesses which adopt digital technologies and missed opportunities for those not engaging with the digital economy.
"Deloitte research shows small businesses which reach advanced levels of digital engagement are one-and-a-half times more likely to be growing revenue and eight times more likely to be creating jobs compared to those which have basic digital engagement," Mr McCormack said.
"On the other hand, Commonwealth Bank research shows up to 80 per cent of small and medium businesses are delaying the adoption of digital technologies which could provide long-term benefits to their business."
Mr McCormack said today's announcement complements the Turnbull Government's recently announced Small Business Digital Taskforce to be led by Mr Mark Bouris AM — one of Australia's most successful entrepreneurs.
"The Government's Small Business Digital Taskforce will engage with small business owners around the country to understand the challenges they face, as well as raising awareness about the benefits of adopting digital technologies.
"Only the Liberal and Nationals Government is backing small business to grow our economy, take our products to the world and create more local jobs."
Applications for ASBAS grants open in late January 2018 with the funding round to run over three years from 2 July 2018 to 30 June 2021.
Grant funding will be allocated to three providers to deliver services in their coverage areas each of which spans multiple States and Territories.
The ASBAS program guidelines for the 2018 funding round are available at www.business.gov.au/asbas.