Supporting Melbourne’s traders through thick and thin

13 December 2023

Meet your City of Melbourne councillors
Councillor Jason Chang

While small business contributes much to a city’s economy, local traders play an even broader cultural role, Councillor Jason Chang, the City of Melbourne’s Small Business Portfolio Lead said. 

“To attract residents you need to have small businesses because they create that Melbourne atmosphere. They are the life of the city, they provide diversity in terms of retail and in food, and they really showcase Melbourne.” 

Cr Chang has been steeped in the Melbourne small business world for most of his life. As a boy he would be at the Queen Victoria Market at sunrise, as his family ran their fresh produce business. His father was a market trader for decades.  
“At the end of the day we’d try and sell what remained for a dollar a bag. The smells, the bustle, I loved it.” 

Born and raised in Melbourne, Cr Chang said he entered local government to represent the voice of traders. 

“I stood for election to offer a different lens as a small business owner and also to offer diversity. I wanted to say to people that wherever you were born, or whatever your heritage may be, you can try and do the best you can for your community. I wanted to be an advocate for the business community as well as for migrants and international students.” 

City of Melbourne grants programs, together with the Business Concierge service, focus on strengthening businesses and precincts and encouraging a diversity of enterprises. 

While optimistic about the progress made in supporting city businesses, Cr Chang said he’s keen to see even more opportunities emerge. 

“There is more we can do to bridge the gap, to allow more First Nations people and immigrants and refugees to open a business in Melbourne. Can we do more to help if they need advice about obtaining finance or leases or general business mentoring? 

“Our Business Concierge service does do a lot in that regard. It has encouraged the public to engage with council on a more personal level and allows council to go out and speak to businesses and ask how they’re doing, what can we do to assist, how do we cut the red tape? It’s a one-stop shop to navigate the waters of opening a new business.” 

The service was established when lockdowns were imposed during the pandemic. Recognising its value for city businesses, council continued the service and since it began, Business Concierge case managers have had 61,500 contacts with businesses seeking support and advice. 

As a hospitality business owner himself, Cr Chang said he was proud of the Melbourne Money dining rebate, one of several economic revitalisation initiatives jointly funded by City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government. 

“Melbourne Money really helped hospitality traders, it allowed us to attract people back to the city, to try new places. It was a lifeline for businesses that were really struggling during the world’s longest lockdown.” 

A group of people standing in formation
Councillor Jason Chang (front row, third from right) is a member of the new City Economy Advisory Committee

A new city economy advisory committee gives him confidence the city’s recovery can be further boosted.  
“It was set up because we have seen a clear shift in consumer sentiment towards the nighttime economy which is booming. Bars, dining and supper venues are really doing well but the daytime economy is still struggling which will affect the overall culture of the city. Retail businesses in particular rely on daytime visitors. 

“We need to focus on attracting people back to the city during the day. The committee will look at innovative ideas and show the public that Melbourne is a 24-hour city. You can come at 10am for coffee, you can come at 2am for a kebab. We can promote that to the world. 

“We will continue to be a city of events and I love to go to festivals such as the Little Korea festival, and I enjoy the culture at our Greek and Italian festivals. I love all the events that the precincts put on.” 

A close-up photo of four people in front of the Chinese New Year Dragon. They are surrounded by a crowd of people.
Cr Jason Chang (second from left) with Cr Jamal Hakim, Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece at the Chinese Lunar New Year parade

What remains challenging in his view is working towards more communication between council and the Victorian Government.  

“The city is really the engine of the whole state economy. We also need to look at attracting and retaining highly skilled talent including international students. There are skills shortages. So how do we attract them to stay and make a life here? We need them to innovate here.” 

What’s still to do in his view is further developing Melbourne’s tourism and events market.  
“When we look at Melbourne as an entertainment destination, we could look at hosting K-pop concerts and attracting international megastars from India, Philippines and Korea, stars from a diverse background. How do we use our strengths as a multicultural city to attract more visitors?” 

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13 December 2023
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