In March, 2002 a notice appeared in the window of the petrol station announcing that it would be closing in ten days time. Seven local people got together and decided to do something positive about it. We initially formed a company called the Yackandandah Community Development Company Pty Ltd (YCDCo).
YCDCo was formed with an initial goal to secure the future supply of fuel in Yackandandah. Fuel is regarded as such a basic service function for the town that it is crucial to retain. Initially, this involved taking over the operation of the existing petrol at 12 High Street, but now has progressed to longer term solutions.
Having established a company as an operating structure, the directors of YCDCo formed the view that the petrol station issue might be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and that other similar issues may emerge in future which call for a concerted community-based effort/response. We therefore decided to establish the company on a semi-commercial/semi-community basis. The idea is that the company having a commercial focus will ensure that we are not seen as a charity and is basically self-sustaining. It is locally controlled, is not beholden to politics and is not reliant on grants, subsidies or donations.
In a way, our Vision for YCDCo is to become a strong ‘voice’ for the broader Yackandandah community (business and residents). It is focussed on both general community-wellbeing, as well as the economic interests of the Yackandandah community and surrounding areas.
The rationale for the existence of an organization like YCDCo is based on the fact that the community’s ability to respond quickly to issues and challenges which may arise (ie the petrol station closing) and to take positive steps to influence or control any such issues which may impact on its well-being, depends heavily on having some collective economic power and resources available in an organization which has only the town’s interests at heart. The local Council also plays an important role in this but is limited by legal, political and resource constraints.
Arguably, had such an organisation as YCDCo been in existence when the banks pulled out in the 1990s, we may still have a bank in Yackandandah today.
Therefore, the immediate goals of YCDCo were as follows:
- to undertake projects and initiatives which will economically and socially and culturally benefit the community of Yackandandah and its surrounding areas;
- to operate YCDCo on a commercially sustainable basis and generate profits to shareholders in the long term;
- to extend the ownership base of YCDCo so that it has a broad-based community ownership structure;
- to return 50% of any future profits the company generates (e.g. after operating expenses) back to community causes and projects (to be defined); and,
- to return the remaining 50% of any profits to YCDCo shareholders.
As of 5th December 2002, YCDCo Ltd became an ‘unlisted public company’. What this meant is that we can have as many shareholders as we like and can raise public funds through the issues of shares, subject to the Corporations Act. Our shares are not traded on a stock exchange (as with listed public companies). At this stage there were 10 shareholders in YCDCo who owned 11 x $100 shares each.
In order to raise the funds necessary to build a new purpose-built fuel outlet with the capacity to receive full semi-trailer loads of fuel, dispense fuel to more than one customer at a time, etc, an Offer Information Statement was issued. The process was launched in the Yackandandah Public Hall with between 200 and 300 people attending. Applications for shares closed on 21st May, 2003.
The share issue was a resounding success:
|Total Share Applications Received||473|
|Number of Applicants||649|
|Average share package value||$871|
|Largest individual package value||$10,000|
|Total funds committed (applications)||$412,100|
|Subscription rate (%)||107.9%|
Using the capital raised, together with a State Government contribution, made through the Indigo Shire to develop the Industrial Estate on which the new Yackandandah Station was to be located, the new service station was built, opening for trade on 5th December, 2003.
The rural supplies/hardware business opened for trade at Yackandandah Station on 18th February 2005. Despite some early glitches in getting the rural supplies/hardware/produce business up and running, the Board remains confident that this, together with fuel, will underpin the long-term profitability of YCDCo.
The following videos, which tell part of the YCDCo story, make interesting viewing:
- Video produced by David Norman (Postie) for presentation at the opening of Yfuel (10 mins).
- Video produced by the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence about our community enterprise (11 mins).