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Mayor’s letter for 23 September 2021

Mayor’s Newsletter for Thursday 23 September 2021

George has become an attractive lifestyle city with re-location taking place from metropolitan areas and other parts of the country as citizens have come to realise what we offer. Over the past few years a growing number of “super-commuters” have established their homes in George to enable their families to live in a safe environment with good schools and healthcare facilities while the bread-winner would undertake weekly commutes to Gauteng for work purposes.

The re-location trend was very evident in the pre-Covid-19 times with the many daily flights in and out of George Airport to OR Tambo to cater for these commuters who would often spend three or four nights a week away from George. The pandemic interrupted this trend resulting in the rapid growth in virtual meetings held via Teams or Zoom. This shift has impacted the way of doing business. In many business arrangements there used to be a need to travel to Cape Town or Johannesburg on a monthly or quarterly basis for an important meeting often involving an overnight stay. Covid ensured that suddenly these meetings could now be held virtually without the need or expense of travelling to attend these meetings. It is likely therefore that during the time when air travel came to a standstill, the working arrangements for the super-commuters also changed.

The access to optic fibre technology has facilitated the migration to these virtual meetings and remote working. The prospect of virtual work has enabled anyone from accountants to insurance brokers, IT specialists and many others to work remotely from home offices.

Over the past 18 months, Covid has therefore effected a “disruptive” change for all of these sectors. It would therefore be interesting to understand how this affects George citizens who previously commuted. In some instances, the work may take place in sectors such as manufacturing where physical presence is required. Other examples could relate to dealing with clients on a face-to-face basis; or in sectors that would more easily accommodate remote work.
From the perspective of the municipality, it would be interesting to understand how the requirements of the “commuting” sector have changed and if any adaptations in service offerings are needed. We would welcome the establishment of corporate business units in George that could service operations elsewhere. Banks such as First Rand and Absa have recently indicated that they wish to establish fintech teams. We believe that George would be an ideal lifestyle location for such businesses or those wishing to establish data and high-tech centres, finance, insurance and administration related businesses, etc.

We would therefore welcome it if our super-commuters would promote George as a preferred investment location and also enter a discussion, possibly via on how to secure growth of this sector.