Business Retention and Expansion Programme

In April 2013, the eThekwini Municipality, in partnership with the Phoenix Industrial Park Lot-Owners Association (PIPLOA) and the Durban Chamber of Commerce & Industry, jointly launched a Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) Programme to identify opportunities for businesses in the Park and address obstacles to expansion and growth.

At the outset of the BR&E Programme, a survey of the opinions of business people in the Park was undertaken and at a feedback event held on the 7th August 2013, stakeholders were informed of the 5 critical areas of concern that were identified in the survey, namely:-
  • The aesthetics of the Park
  • Combating crime
  • Roads network and traffic congestion
  • Continuity and availability of electricity
  • Availability of affordable land for business expansion

The BR&E partners then formed action teams to address these concerns, spearheaded by the Park's Township Manager, Mike O'Donovan, Afika Ndima of Durban Investment Promotion, and Monique Labat, BR&E Local Co-ordinator. As at May 2015, the following initiatives had been set in motion:-

Aesthetics
The general appearance of the Park was identified as one of the main concerns in the survey. In this regard, the BR&E Programme has helped to create a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing environment by ensuring that the grass verges along the two main roads in the Park are now being regularly cut and cleaned by the Parks Dept., whilst the PIPLOA garden staff are attending to the other road verges and various landscaped areas.


Crime Prevention
With crime identified as another area of concern in the survey, the following security related issues are being addressed:-

CCTV Camera Surveillance System
In Oct 2014, PIPLOA requested the City to sponsor the upgrading of the Park's CCTV camera surveillance system, as part of the BR&E Programme. In response, Vincent Ngubane, Head of the City's Disaster Management Unit, undertook to upgrade the system with fibre optic cabling, state-of-the-art cameras, and intensive training programs for the controllers. He also offered to link the cameras up to the City's central control room, which would greatly assist in identifying crime scenes and ensure faster response times from the Metro Police. Subsequently, it was agreed that initially, two new CCTV cameras would be installed at the entrances to the Park off the M25 and the Phoenix Highway.

Storm-Water Canal
In response to numerous security complaints from businesses in the Park, the City has agreed that a major clean-out of the storm-water canal running through the Park will be undertaken by the Parks Dept. The project will involve the clearing away of all trees and shrubs, the cleaning and de-silting of the canal bottom and the laying of ground-cover on the canal banks. A bill of quantities is now in place and a 'vote number' for the project has been approved by Russell Curtis, Head : Investment Promotion. The clearing of the storm-water canal has begun.


Railway Siding
In Sept 2006, PIPLOA submitted an application to the City's Real Estate Unit to have a portion of the railway siding running through the Park discontinued and for the land to be sold to the adjoining property owners. The application was motivated solely by security concerns, as the siding had become disused, overgrown, and a haven for criminals. In Feb 2015, some 8.5 years later, the City's Real Estates Unit have completed their valuation of the siding, but have not yet released the details to PIPLOA.

In the meantime, PIPLOA has asked the City to abolish the annual siding fees being charged to the adjoining property owners, as the siding has not been maintained for many years and is now completely dysfunctional.

High-Mast Lights
The issue of faulty high-mast lights throughout the Park has also been a major security concern for many years. PIPLOA has repeatedly requested the City to repair / replace the lights, without success. However, following a meeting with the Municipality's Electricity Unit on 11 May 2015, it appears that action in this matter is about be undertaken.


Roads Network
The roads network in and around the Park and more specifically, the ongoing traffic congestion, was also identified as a concern in the BR&E survey. In this regard, the following activities are expected to help resolve the problem:-

Intersections
At PIPLOA's request, Russell Curtis, Head : Investment Promotion Unit, engaged with the Transport Authority and it was agreed to re-establish a 4 x way stop at the intersection of Hunslett Rd and Old Main Rd 93. It has also been agreed to re-look at our request to widen the junction of Hunslett Road and Aberdare Drive (by canal bridge).

New Entrance / Exit to Park
The building of the new 'half-diamond' interchange on the M25 is progressing well. It will go under the M25 and be a link between Bridge City and Aberdare Dr. It will also provide an East bound on-ramp towards the N2 and a West bound off-ramp.

Integrated Rapid Public Transit Service (IRPTS)
The building of this new transport system is also progressing rapidly. The service will operate between Bridge City and the Gateway shopping center, with part of it running alongside Aberdare Dr. and linking-up with Industrial Park Drive.


Apart from the foregoing responses to the concerns identified in the BR&E survey, there have also been other, more immediate gains accruing to the businesses in the Park, including:-

Informal Traders
In response to the growing numbers of informal traders operating throughout the Park, it was agreed with the City's Business Support Unit in July 2014 that PIPLOA could introduce the same arrangements and controls as those in operation at the Riverhorse Valley Business Estate. Under these new arrangements, the issuing of trading permits will be managed jointly by the City and PIPLOA. Only licensed traders will be allowed in the Park and there will be strict rules governing how they conduct their businesses and what type of structures they may use.

A schedule of the licensed traders has now been completed and plotted onto a map of the Park by the City's GIS Dept. This will enable the Metro Police and the Unit's licensing officers, with assistance from PIPLOA's security contractor RUSA, to jointly control the traders and remove all illegal operators from the Park.

Additionally, Michael Hlangu of the Business Support Unit and Russell Curtis Head : Investment Promotion Unit, have each committed R200 000 towards providing 10 half-sized metal containers for those traders that have been granted licenses, with the first containers expected to be in place by mid-2015.

New Business Directory
In what is a first for Durban, a locally focused Business Directory is to be published as part of the BR&E Programme. It will include details of companies based in the Park, as well as in Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwa-Mashu. Access to this information, through the Directory, will serve to benefit these business communities that contribute many millions of Rands in rates to the City coffers. The Directory will be published in both soft and hard copy. The soft copy will be uploaded onto the new PIPLOA website, as well as the websites of its BR&E partners.

Business Advertising / Signage
In line with the spirit of the BR&E Program, those businesses in the Park that have been issued with breach letters for unauthorized advertising will be notified of the City's by-laws and given the necessary procedures to follow.

New Signage at Entrances to Park
As part of the BR&E Programme, the City is funding the erection of new signs at The 3 main entrances to the Park. Design proposals for the signs have already Been received and now need to be approved jointly by the City and PIPLOA. Requests for quotations will then be issued by the City.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)
Linda Mbonambi has been appointed Head of all Area Based Management in the Municipality and will be meeting with all Deputy City Managers in order to brief them on the BR&E Programme and secure their support and buy-in for the SLAs, including scorecards to record how the Municipality is delivering on its mandate. SLAs are already available for the Parks Dept. and the Roads & Storm-Water Dept. and will be made available to other Depts., with Wendy Gibson-Taylor of the Urban Management Zone managing the reporting process.


Conclusion
PIPLOA is completely committed to the BR&E Programme and calls upon all businesses in the Park to become involved in a joint effort to capitalize on opportunities available through this very powerful partnership of PIPLOA, the eThekwini Municipality and the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.