WITH a new kayak and his trusty 26-foot yacht awaiting him, Steve Jamieson is counting down his final days at work.
The local small business advocate is retiring next week from an 11-year stint as chief executive at South Eastern BEC, where he's helped small businesses of all kinds find their niche.
And it's a much stronger small business sector these days than when he first started work with the local not-for-profit.
"When I first started Queanbeyan still had bit of that old 'struggle town' (reputation)," Mr Jamieson said.
"Now I haven't heard that term used by a business person for at least five years. Business people are really positive about Queanbeyan, and they actually see it as a better place to be than Canberra."
As head of South Eastern BEC, Mr Jamieson and his team work with local small businesses and help provide the tools they need to grow, from marketing and structural advice, to providing networking opportunities and more in-depth training.
The Queanbeyan Age caught up with Mr Jamieson this week to discuss the health of local small business in the region.
He said one of the major differences in today's small business sector compared to the one he first encountered in the early 2000s was that businesses were moving here by choice, despite commercial rents and leases in Queanbeyan now being comparable with Canberra.
"When I first started here it was almost a second option: you came to Queanbeyan because Canberra wasn't working for you, but these days people come to Queanbeyan as their first choice," he said.
"It's usually that they (business owners) found a great place to live and they want to have their business closer to where they live. It's certainly not price anymore, it's that they prefer to be here."
As for the major challenges facing local small business, Mr Jamieson said new cuts to the public service could be a major hurdle in the short term.
"The change of Government and the talk of the new Government terminating so many people in Canberra is going to be a short-term problem definitely to Queanbeyan. And that will last a couple of years until we work through it."
"With Canberra not being as dependent on the public service as it used to be, it should be faster and a little less dramatic than previous times, but it's still very serious," he said.
Meanwhile, he said the BEC would continue to work with local businesses in Queanbeyan, and is currently in the process of interviewing for a new chief executive.
"In many respects the BEC is a private friendly ear that you can actually discuss your plans with, and we've got a number of templates and things we can work with to make sure these things actually happen," he said.