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North Sydney Council is the national recipient of Google’s eTown award for 2013.

The award recognises and ranks communities that outpaced the rest of Australia in having local small business use the web to engage with customers and grow outside traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ boundaries.

Google analyses more than 600 local government areas and ranks according to the use of Adwords by online businesses – a good indicator of web activity. It then visits shortlisted towns and businesses determining the success factors including the use of online marketing, blogs, directory presence, and social media. The results are analysed to rank eTowns by state and territory.

North Sydney NSW ranked fourth in 2012 behind Perth, Yarra, and Adelaide so its rise has been significant. Google Australia managing director Maile Carnegie said “In North Sydney’s case you have one of the world's biggest CBDs just over the bridge so you really need to work out how to differentiate. Small businesses that use digital are twice as likely to grow revenue, generate twice as much revenue per employee, and they are four times as likely to be hiring more staff. There is a lot of upside for small businesses individually, and whole areas economically.”

 

The awards ceremony was held today at Andrew Grzina’s St Leonards, North Sydney, ‘Form and Design’ Showroom - described by Vogue Living as a ‘grown-ups version of a lolly shop, offering temptations at every turn’. 20 years ago FORM+DESIGN’s customers were limited to the fifty thousand residents who lived close enough to walk into their store. Now, using online marketing to reach people who are looking for homewares, their customers come from as far afield as Melbourne, Perth, New Caledonia, Germany and Sweden.

It was attended by the member for North Sydney and Treasurer Joe Hockey MP. “G’day mate, call me Joe,” - Hockey is a local and he used the gathering to recommit to small business.

“We can either be victims of change or beneficiaries – we are facing a rapidly changing world and we cannot allow ourselves to become inert victims – we must move with the times. Business must change its models to accommodate the times – or become irrelevant. The internet will not do the hard work for you but will facilitate change,” he said.

“We have bought small business into the Treasury for the very first time – it has made a world of difference. Small business will be at the epicentre of decision making for the economy. Whether it be dealing with red tape, the Tax Office, ACCC, or ABS – we will be considering it from a small business viewpoint – you don’t have dedicated human resources, legal, accounting and excess staff – often it is one person out the back doing the paperwork - often late at night. Canberra’s mindset must change to small business rather than thinking that every business is a global player or has massive resources.”

Martin Ellis, Community and Library Services Manager for North Sydney Council accepted the award on behalf of the Mayor Jilly Gibson. “North Sydney Council has a number of initiatives to help support its small business including training, seminars and networking. The word ‘Australia’ gives credibility to online marketing – we can now add North Sydney to that,” he said.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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