Transport connectivity, TAFE cuts and a raw deal from Wollongong City Council were the focus of a state election forum at Helensburgh on Friday.
The "Coffee with the Candidates" session, hosted by the Northern Illawarra Chamber of Commerce, saw Heathcote election hopefuls quizzed on what they would do for small business.
About 30 people gathered at Helensburgh Tradies to voice their concerns.
Liberal Lee Evans told the forum a "very restricted population" and travellers who were "driving straight through" were issues for the northern Illawarra.
"We're cutting red tape for businesses ... small business is the generator of more jobs than any other sector [in NSW]," Mr Evans said.
An audience member questioned what planning and infrastructure would be needed to cater for an increased population. Mr Evans replied the government would need to work with council however, he echoed concerns from the crowd over Wollongong CBD-centric spending.
Natasha Watson (Greens) said she wanted to see the electorate thrive sustainably, with improved streetscaping, better freeway signage and a more inviting entrance to Helensburgh.
"To help businesses at the ground level, we must aim to retain existing customers and encourage new ones from outside the area," Ms Watson said.
Labor candidate Maryanne Stuart spoke of an important link between TAFE and small business, before outlining traffic congestion, commuter car parking and the train timetable as major constituent concerns.
"We need to develop a think tank of locals, commuters, businesses and experts to look at a sustainable plan for the future," Ms Stuart said to the forum.
"We need to lock it in and then deliver it."
Independent candidate, and Wollongong City Councillor, Greg Petty used the forum as a platform for his election pitch.
"This is going to be a tough election; I personally believe it's ... going to be a hung parliament," Cr Petty said.
Independent candidate for the upper house Warwick Erwin also addressed the forum.