Cobargo’s New Business Innovation Hub.

Business Council of Australia and Cobargo Co-op funded the hub

By Marion Williams Published in: Bega District News Dec 13 2022.

Cobargo’s first infrastructure project for its bushfire-affected businesses officially opened on Saturday, December 10.

The Cobargo Business Innovation Hub is giving four small businesses a low-cost environment so they can regain their footing to be fit and commercially ready for when the fire-devastated main street is restored.

The hub is the result of industry, led by the Business Council of Australia, working with the community.

Narelle Cooper, secretary/treasurer of Cobargo Quaama Business Recovery Inc., said the BCA came to Cobargo “very early on in the piece”.

It immediately gave fire-affected businesses $2,000 vouchers to retool, plus refurbished laptops and $500 service vouchers to use for getting advice on how to pivot their businesses.

“That went a really long way to galvanising the businesses and to start them thinking about the future”, Ms Cooper said.

Done without government funding

The BCA also wanted a big picture plan and suggested a model they had used in Mogo with shipping containers.

“We didn’t think that was the best style and asked for a different model more suitable for Cobargo.”

BCA looked for a partner and found Geelong-based FormFlow which was keen to help Cobargo and to showcase its innovative building design that produces an extremely high fire-resistant BAL rating of 40.

Ms Cooper said BCA’s CEO Jennifer Westacott AO and Sir Peter Cosgrove, patron of the BCA’s Rebuild Trust Fund, “brought the idea together that they could get big business to support small business”.

The Cobargo Co-operative Society donated the use of the land plus $100,000 which added to the $880,000 from the BCA’s BizRebuild initiative.

“The Co-op assisted in lots of different ways. As a community-owned business, they felt they should support those fire-affected businesses to ensure they stayed in Cobargo,” Ms Cooper said.

Support and understanding

The hub also houses the Cobargo Community Access Centre, formerly the Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre, which helps the community with counselling, IT, legal and government services and co-working spaces for community groups.

All four businesses in the hub suffered significant losses and “are really thrilled to be there because they have the support of each other, they understand each other and have an arm of support around them to trade”, Ms Cooper said.

It is also great for the businesses that continued to trade after the bushfires, she said.

“We hope by bringing their neighbours back it will draw more people. Those other businesses sometimes get forgotten.”

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