New businesses found where infrastructure is booming
It isn’t a case of the chicken and the egg when it comes to infrastructure and businesses: bring the infrastructure and the businesses will come.
Data released this week showed that four suburbs, located more than 30km from a major CBD, made the top 10 suburbs for most business registrations in 2016.
Liverpool and Toowoomba, at sixth and seventh position respectively, were two outer suburbs to feature in the top 10 list of highest ABN/ACN registrations.
Werribee and Hoppers Creek, adjoining suburbs 30 km south-west of Melbourne’s CBD, held fifth and eighth position respectively.
It begs the question: what do these outer suburbs have in common for the latest surge in new businesses?
The one clear thing connecting Werribee, Liverpool and Toowoomba in recent times is the huge amount of infrastructure investment, particularly in transport and new housing.
Currently, Toowoomba has the perfect equation for long-term, strong economic growth: major infrastructure projects, new businesses and an enviable lifestyle.
The total figure for infrastructure investment feeding into regional Toowoomba is in the billions of dollars.
The Second Range Crossing, the Wellcamp Airport Business Park, the Grand Central shopping centre redevelopment and the new urban villages are all in the pipeline or underway. They present an impressive mix of infrastructure investments unparalleled in any other regional city in our state.
The amount and intensity of the new projects are instant attractions for new businesses, whether they are there to service the growth or to capitalise on them.
It is unsurprising that a large number of new jobs will be created in the construction industry as a result of the new projects. But the development of new shopping precincts and airports will provide the foundations to continue attracting aviation routes and major retailers well into the future.
We know that where there is strong economic growth, there will be solid population growth as new businesses look to attract the best of the best. Wages will rise, career opportunities are opened, unemployment will go down and social disadvantage will be lessened.
If we can maintain a good level of political and economic stability, I predict this will be the case for Toowoomba over the next few years.
CCIQ has consistently called for greater infrastructure investment, of at least 4.25 per cent of Gross State Product, which is our 10-year average, as we urgently need more success stories like this.
Furthermore, if governments were to change the way they approach infrastructure investment and delivery, many other metropolitan and regional towns could be singing similar stories.
For example and as with the case in Toowoomba, there has been a greater public-private collaboration in getting the major projects underway, which go beyond just private financing of infrastructure.
The prime example is the Wellcamp Airport and Business Park which is being funded, developed and now operated wholly by the private sector.
An expanded relationship with the private sector - which spans from initial planning, development, construction, through to operation - can help improve the overall efficiency of infrastructure investments.
Governments simply need to create the right environment and pull the right levers for this to occur.
Another driver in the success of Toowoomba is how successive governments have been able to take the politics out of infrastructure delivery, by carrying projects forward instead of scrapping them following a change of government.
This recognition of infrastructure as a priority and not a political football means that there is now a slow yet very welcome shift towards long-term planning that Queensland desperately needs.
On a final note, Toowoomba has managed to achieve a high level of cooperation between local, state and federal governments, which undoubtedly became the key ingredient in its success as a city.
The UK government in particular has placed great emphasis on this type of collaboration, which is called the “City Deals” model. City Deals are formal agreements between all levels of government designed to get them to move beyond the political cycle and assist in aligning governments on core infrastructure needs.
The State Government only needs to look to Toowoomba when planning and delivering infrastructure in its other regional cities. The challenge will lie in how to balance investment in a way where one region does not benefit at the expense of another.