IT'S going to be a 'defining year' for business in Ipswich.
Boutique restaurants and cafes, speciality shops and niche market-based businesses are already cashing in on the CBD facelift but outside the city centre, investors are spying potential in growing markets.
Confidence in the building and construction sector, a $150m cash splash on the Ipswich Mall and healthy competition in food, entertainment and hospitality businesses is sparking a bright 12 months for the city.
Ipswich Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Phillip Bell said he was looking forward to seeing the Ipswich business sector blossom in 2018.
"The city heart precinct is going to feature very strongly but having said that a lot of business will take a little time to settle and build their profile and clientele," Mr Bell said.
"I think all businesses would accept that takes time. Momentum will continue to build in 2018.
"In particular hospitality and retail types businesses are finding improved opportunities for business in the Ipswich CBD."
He said the focus on the CBD redevelopment played a significant role in encouraging business confidence.
"I observed local business struggle a few years back but what we are seeing now, particularly with the confidence the council is showing with the $150 million in the CBD, is that people are being drawn back," Mr Bell said.
"There will always be a strong market for business competing outside the CBD but with the types of entertainment, retail and hospitality type precincts that are being created, the opportunity for small business in retail and hospitality is just going to continue to grow. 2018 is going to be a defining year for business in Ipswich."
Mr Bell said while many businesses were making the most of the opportunities to strengthen within the city, others were facing challenges not exclusive to Ipswich.
"There are a lot of small businesses that truly operate on the margin. We need to be cautious because we have enjoyed a relatively low cost of debt so small business in particular will have to watch their balance sheet in the next 12 to 24 months," he said. "If we see an asset squeeze and interest rates starting to shift upwards, there is some cause for concern for those in the margin."
Local business heading overseas
SMALL businesses which have already secured their hold on the Ipswich market are increasingly looking to overseas consumers to sell their goods.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell predicts 2018 will be a year of strong growth for small business exporters.
Ms Carnell said Australia's International Business Survey 2017 showed greater confidence among businesses that were already exporting.
In agriculture and wholesaling, two thirds of businesses believe the outlook is better than the previous two years.
China, the United States and United Kingdom have been identified as markets where revenue growth is likely to be strong.
"Australia is seeing increased growth in exports and small businesses are leading the way," Ms Carnell said.
"Nearly 88 per cent of Australian exporters are small-medium enterprises.
"An increasing number of firms are 'born global', which means they're exporting at the very beginning."
Ms Carnell said the survey findings matched Efic's exporter sentiment index from August, which showed two thirds of respondents expected future sales revenue to increase