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The National Broadband Network will be a focus of the fifth Inner West Small Business Expo, taking place at Strathfield Golf Club on August 16.

The Expo is the result of a joint effort by Leichhardt, Marrickville, Canada Bay, Strathfield and Ashfield councils, alongside the Clearly Business Enterprise Centre, to help local businesses “connect, learn and grow”.

Co-ordinator John Whelan said the workshops would assist businesses in considering whether an online presence is a profitable way to expand.

“Online is not your enemy,” he said.

Other streams will offer advice on “standing out from the crowd” and “growing your business without headaches or borrowing”.

The Expo comes at a vexed time for small business in Sydney’s inner west. While some high streets such as King St in Newtown are thriving, others are suffering from escalating rates of vacancy, including parts of Norton St and Parramatta Rd in Leichhardt.

Mr Whelan said perceived threats – such as shopping centres or chain stores – could be turned into opportunities for small businesses.

“Look at it from the other perspective – often a large business becomes an attractor,” he said.

He pointed to the IKEA development in Tempe as an example that had rejuvenated parts of the Princes Highway.

“New business have opened up that are complimentary to what IKEA does,” said Mr Whelan. “There are many businesses who were maybe not doing so well due to the nature of the Princes Highway that are now doing better.”

Those who imagined a previous golden age for small business were mistaken, he said.

“We know that when there were horses and buggies being tied to edging rails, people were complaining about parking,” said Mr Whelan.

Yasmin King, former Associate Commissioner at the ACCC and now NSW Small Business Commissioner, will deliver the opening address. Carol Skyring, who has been a mentor for women starting in business, will present a workshop covering online capability.

“I’ll be contributing my expertise on eBusiness and an overview of the reasons to go online and whether you should become an eBusiness,” she said.

Dr Graeme Salter, an expert in digital and mobile marketing who will present a workshop, said it was a valuable day for small business owners to network and learn.

“Small businesses are often seen on their own – this is a way for them to network, and for their training,” he said. “I’ve been to the event before and it was worthwhile because of the contacts I made.”

Mr Whelan said the political narrative about red tape and taxes could sometimes give business owners a “cliche or slogan” that did not necessarily help identify and redress the real issues facing their business.