Agency Development and Support

Small business directory in Caledon

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Small business directory in Caledon

Funds invested in Theewaterskloof Municipality are helping to grow local businesses through setting up linkages and mentorships – and the traditional but very successful idea of business directories.

14 May 2013

ADScaledon insideAgriculture is the primary economic driver of Theewaterskloof

Small local and district municipalities around the country are being given a hand – through funds and capacity – by the Industrial Development Corporation, through its agency development and support unit.

One such is Theewaterskloof Municipality, in the Overberg district of Western Cape Province. It covers the farming and tourism towns of Botriver, Caledon, Grabouw, Greyton, Riversonderend, Tesselaarsdal and Villiersdorp, and the old Moravian mission of Genadendal. The municipal offices are in the tidy little town of Caledon, the seat of a district that contains both relative wealth and grinding poverty. But above all, it seems to be a district that works, with the government, the private sector, the farming community and the local NGOs all striving together for the same goals.

Two of the most visible of these are economic growth and attracting investment and business into the area, and waste management. It is also in these areas that the IDC is involved, although there is no economic development agency in the region. Joanna Dibden, the manager of the municipality’s local economic development and tourism unit, says there are two projects supported by IDC funds.

“We support small, medium and micro enterprises through a market platform using small business directories,” she explains. “The idea is to get people to buy local, at source. The campaign is about two years old.

“Some local companies pay to be in the directory, while the council funds others, and pays for them to be in bold, so highlighting what is on offer. We decided, rather than to start something completely new, to support what is already there.”

ADScaledon insideGrain is harvested at a farm outside Caledon, Theewaterskloof Municipality

The aim is for each of the eight towns to have a directory, with seed funding coming from the municipality for Villiersdorp and Riversonderend, which do not have directories as yet. Each of these is renewed annually. Theewaterskloof keeps its suppliers on a database, which are then added to the relevant directory.

“We help companies that are not used to having cash for marketing and advertising,” says Dibden. “We prefer to give references to people or companies with whom we already do business – we test the business to see if it is viable. This gives clients confidence, and the companies accountability. There is growth in that.”

The directories have a ripple effect, and are proving very popular locally. They also encourage linkages, whereby big companies can find smaller, local businesses from which they can procure goods and services, rather than go “over the mountain” – the local idiom for Somerset West and Cape Town, which are about 100km away on the other side of the mighty Sir Lowry’s Pass.

But for this to really work, there needs to be a shift in quality and service from the small business, Dibden points out. This is the educational part of the programme. “The next step is ‘gatherings’. First we plan an indaba for the hospitality and tourism sector in June at the Caledon Casino Hotel and Spa.” These will help to grow linkages, with businesses learning more about what is available on their doorstep.

“The cherry on the cake would be to get the casino, a Tsogo Sun facility, to buy local produce, such as vegetables, eggs, dairy and other items.” Also in the pipeline is the new Pick n Pay, which will anchor the big new mall being built at the top of Caledon, as you turn off the N2. Many businesses in Genadendal and Greyton, as well as in other towns, produce food – the Overberg is, after all, primarily agricultural. A perfect symmetry would be for the national retailer to source some produce locally.

ADScaledon insideThe directory encourages linkages, whereby big companies can find smaller, local businesses

Caledon itself is a middle class town. It is extraordinarily clean, with good schools and decent service provision. It has the lowest unemployment in the district, although its produce is primarily grain, which is not very labour intensive. Fruit farms in areas around Grabouw, for example, need more workers, although this is mostly seasonal. In Caledon, the support industries for farmers, the Foschini plant, the SA Breweries plant and the casino are the big employers. Then, of course, there is the municipality itself, and the provincial departments of social development and education.

Overberg High, the local high school separated from the town by the N2, sits high on the mountain above the town. It is one of two Dinaledi schools in the district. “The landscape in Caledon is changing,” says Dibden, with some excitement in her voice and a sparkle in her eye. “There is the mall, and residential development on the cards. The issue is that there is not enough opportunity to draw people, although there are opportunities for investment.”

Land prices are cheaper; labour costs are lower as the district is zoned for non-metro wages; housing and transport are cheaper; and there are easy transport routes to big cities as it sits astride the long national highway between Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London. Caledon is the economic and political engine of Theewaterskloof, driving a strong train forwards.

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