1 September 2023

Revenue has increased over the past 12 months but so too have costs for Central Highlands businesses.

The results of the 2023 Central Highlands Business Survey are now available at

The Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) conducts the annual survey to measure business conditions and the overall health of the region’s economy.

This year’s results include significant gains in businesses’ overall performance, revenue, and customer numbers, compared to 2022.

However, escalating operating costs and labour shortages are putting the squeeze on a majority of respondents, particularly the food and beverage sector.

Brent and Wyn Garner are among them. The owners of Inner Bean Hub, an Emerald café renowned for its specialised dietary menu, call it a “tricky time” for small business.

“All of our operating costs are sky-rocketing – the produce for our dishes, the wages – and where we find ways to save a dollar somewhere, we lose another two somewhere else,” Brent says.

The Garners are among the 45 percent of survey respondents who listed recruitment as a constraint to growth.

“We have people putting their resumés in, we book an interview in, but then they never turn up,” Brent says.

Wyn adds that more staff would mean “we can expand our catering service and we could actually get a day off ourselves”.

CHDC Business Facilitator Ashleigh Vann says it’s patently a gruelling phase for the economy but there’s also plenty of hope to come out of the survey.

“The results really speak to the resilience of local businesses and their determination to push through the challenges; and help us at CHDC to zero in on the type of support we need to offer,” she says.

“The findings also help to target our messaging to government and other key agencies.

“Seeing that most respondents are optimistic about revenue and staffing levels in the year ahead, despite the expectation that costs will keep going up, is encouraging too.”

Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents say they’ve actively considered their corporate carbon footprint, and a majority of those business are transitioning to solar power or undertaking other energy optimisation activities.

“CHDC is already looking at what it can do to help in this space, especially for those operators who told the survey that decarbonisation is cost prohibitive or an overwhelming concept,” Ms Vann says.

The local business community will be celebrated at the 2023 Central Highlands Business Excellence Awards Gala Dinner in Emerald next Saturday, 9 September. Buy tickets at

Brent and Wyn won tickets to the awards for completing the survey.

Inner Bean Hub’s Brent and Wyn Garner with CHDC Business Facilitator Ashleigh Vann.