While the mining industry has partially shielded Mount Isa from the worst effects of the pandemic downturn, businesses in other sectors have found the going tough.
The Hertz Mount Isa franchise run by Terry and Alison Dowling has been particularly hit hard as the car rental business has nosedived due to the severely reduced traffic at the airport.
However when the North West Star met with Alison Dowling on Thursday she held up a piece of paper, a manifest, that suggested there might be some signs of light at the end of a dark tunnel.
"From Monday Qantas will be coming back daily so we'll be going from two vehicles rented out in a week, then six, and now 30, that's the difference it makes," Ms Dowling said.
It's good news for a company that saw their business fall off a cliff almost overnight after winning a state award in the back end of 2019 for community support.
"When Virgin dropped out and Qantas dropped from twice daily to one a week from Brisbane, it hit us very hard indeed, it was almost an overnight stop," she said.
"It was an uncertain and stressful business time. We weren't quite sure what to do with staff, we have a big obligation to them. We were thankful for Jobkeeper - it didn't come through till the end of May but we managed to survive till then."
The downturn forced them to look hard at their incomings and outgoings.
"We worked intensely with our accountant and financial adviser. We might not have revenue but we still have fixed costs," she said.
"Our fleet had grown to 90 vehicles and we parked up to 75% of our fleet."
They were told they were eligible for a Queensland government jobs support loan but missed out as it was oversubscribed.
"I started that application early in that first week but I had trouble with it as you can't go backwards and forwards in that system and I needed help but everyone was busy," Alison said.
"We weren't successful with that loan. What was disappointing was even though we got the phone call back the day the Queensland government announced a further $250 million, we still weren't eligible because it was already oversubscribed, I couldn't understand that."
She said their membership of the MCAQ (Motor Trades Association of Queensland) was invaluable during the worst of the pandemic.
"They put out daily briefings, and the weekly briefings, there were links to training and legislation, which were excellent," she said.
The pandemic is also forcing changes to the day-to-day aspects of the business.
"Obviously our vehicles have to be cleaned very thoroughly anyway," she said.
"For the front counter at the airport our staff will wear the full face masks because there is going to be a mass of people coming through."
Ms Dowling said the recent filing of bankruptcy for Hertz in the US had no effect on the rest of the world.
"It does not involve Hertz Europe, Hertz Asia or Hertz in Australia," she said.
Alison remains confident about the future with possible plans to expand into the Cloncurry, Longreach and Birdsville market, slowed down a little by the pandemic.
"The car hire business is a marginal business, it's more of a lifestyle than a business, really," she said.
"We employ local people, we support local community groups and events and we enjoy doing that."
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