'Our Local' online platform gives a boost to regional businesses

Cheers to local business: Owner operators of 90 Mile Wines: Wharf Barrel Shed, Goolwa, Chris and Steve Ramsey say an increase in local trade has helped support small business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cheers to local business: Owner operators of 90 Mile Wines: Wharf Barrel Shed, Goolwa, Chris and Steve Ramsey say an increase in local trade has helped support small business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new online platform introduced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is hoping to drive an uptake in support for local businesses.

The 'Our Local' website, designed by the Alexandrina Council, aims to help showcase the range of shopping and dining experiences as well as the many producers operating across the region.

In April, the council also endorsed the 'Alexandrina Council Business Support Package' which included a range of initiatives to support businesses suffering amid coronavirus restrictions.

This included a 'shop local' campaign to support operations still open during initial lock-down protocols and paved the way for the development of greater online business promotion.

Alexandrina's Chief Executive Officer Glenn Rappensberg said Our Local's aim was to include the majority of relevant businesses in the region and showcase them in a contemporary and engaging way on an accessible digital medium.

"COVID-19 has highlighted that businesses without a good online presence or understanding of the digital economy can become quite vulnerable compared to those that do," Mr Rappensberg said.

"We aim to build an online business community by supporting local business and directing consumers to a 'one stop shop' of all the amazing products and consumer experiences available in the Alexandrina area."

Owner of Woodburn Homestead, Cindy Whestphalen said any moves to support small business in the region are welcomed.

Owner of Woodburn Homestead, Cindy Whestphalen said any moves to support small business in the region are welcomed.

Over recent months, many businesses have demonstrated innovative ways to adapt to survive in rapidly changing circumstances and many have so far taken advantage of the Our Local platform.

About 50 businesses are now featured on the site, with more expected to take up the free opportunity over the coming months.

One such business is 90 Mile Wines: Wharf Barrel Shed, with owner Steve Ramsey saying he was happy to get involved.

"We were happy to get engaged with the program, particularly because of the COVID situation as well as there being a need to attract more customers to our region in general," Mr Ramsey said.

"COVID has been a really testing time for all businesses, especially down this way where you rely on summer trade to get you through.

"It's been really good to see governments and the local council step up to support small businesses, because I don't think we'd have got this far without them."

Mr Ramsey said an increasing online presence had helped attract more local visitors.

Steve's son Chris, who manages operations at the Wharf Barrel Shed agreed.

"We've had more local and South Australian visitors and trade has been good since the school holidays," Chris said.

"There's never really been an online presence for tourism in the region... and this is the first idea that's ever really looked like having the ability to generate interest and get more people to the region."

Woodburn Homestead at Langhorne Creek has had to postpone or reschedule all its booked weddings due to COVID-19, and owner Cindy Westphalen said it had been a particularly challenging time.

"Our venue has been completely closed for about six months, so we've taken a hit financially, but we have been able to leverage ourselves into the tourism industry and look for more opportunities there," Ms Whestphalen said.

"Because people won't be going overseas, tourism dollars are going to be spent right here in South Australia, so I think the Our Local initiative is a great move.

"It's great the council are supporting small businesses through a free initiative and I commend them for trying to reinvigorate small businesses.

"It shows that they understand the Fleurieu community has been severely impacted. Any type of digital advertising is a good thing to do."

Future upgrades to the Our Local website are planned to include e-commerce functionality, high quality video content and the provision for regular networking events.

While reinforcing the need for local community support for the regional economy, Our Local also aims to highlight lesser known shopping and dining gems across the region.

To find out more, visit the Our Local website via: ourlocalalexandrina.com.au or search 'Our Local Alexandrina' on Facebook and Instagram.