As the first section of the Inland Rail powers ahead to be open by mid-2020, a Parkes business owner has just two words for her fellow businesses along its alignment.
"Embrace it," she said.
Allison Hattenfels is the manager of Hotel Gracelands in Parkes and since the start of construction of the Parkes to Narromine section (103.7km) of the national project in December 2018, her business and others have had an enormous boost.
While the hotel is popular, especially during the famous Parkes Elvis Festival each January, Allison said about 80 per cent of current business comes from people associated with the Inland Rail.
She encourages entrepreneurs to be ready before the project comes to their town, so that businesses can make the most of it as soon as possible.
The 173km Stockinbingal to Parkes section has started gathering momentum, with environmental and hydrology studies and engineering design work underway, businesses urged to register their interest and community sessions held earlier this month.
Allison and her staff have adapted to making the most of the increased business and it's been a learning opportunity for them from an accounting perspective too.
They are increasingly working with charge-back systems and third-party travel providers, rather than just cash transactions and direct bookings.
Employment and economic activity along the Parkes to Narromine route has hit a peak, bringing a welcome boost across the drought-affected communities.
Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) reports more than 1580 people have worked on the Parkes to Narromine project, including 632 local residents and 163 local indigenous residents.
More than 90 businesses are offering locally-sourced materials and services to the project, including cement, rail sleepers, fencing, cranes, machinery and geotechnical advice.
And more than $67 million has been injected into the economy for goods, ranging from takeaway coffee, comfy cabins, personal protective equipment and even gym memberships - including $8.6 million spent on Indigenous businesses.
Astro Dish Motor Inn owner John Pizarro and manager Donald Chisholm, also from Parkes, have had the 'no vacancy' sign up most weeks.
"The flow-on benefits from Inland Rail activities have substantially influenced the town's local economy," John said.
"There's been more employment opportunities and a substantial increase in demand for worker accommodation."
For ARTC Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller, the benefits of Inland Rail will be felt far beyond the route alignment as more businesses come on board to build and support workers of such an essential link in the national supply chain.
"From the outset, Inland Rail has focused on creating opportunities for regional workforces and we are also engaging with businesses right across Australia to fill the contracts needed to build it," he said.
"Inland Rail is a catalyst for safer, less congested highways, fewer carbon emissions, cheaper freight costs and we're excited by the new economic opportunities it will open up for our regions."
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