This opinion article by Business Council of Australia Deputy Chief Executive Maria Tarrant was published in the Geelong Advertiser on 29 October 2013 under the title 'Big Business Wants to Hear Your Ideas'. The Business Council of Australia is currently taking part in a series of regional consultations organised by the Regional Australia Institute to better understand how the BCA's Action Plan for Enduring Prosperityrelates to local economic development.
It is a credit to all involved that the region is building on its strong foundations now to plan for a future of flourishing businesses and healthy job creation.
Many of the issues confronting Geelong are not unique. Australia has enjoyed 22 years of economic growth, but the resources investment boom has allowed us to forget the economic challenges we face as a nation.
The Business Council of Australia has joined forces with the Regional Australia Institute to tour regional centres and explore the main drivers of competitiveness. Today we will be in Geelong to bring together representatives of business, government, researchers and the wider local community to hear about the region's achievements and challenges.
The BCA represents the chief executives of more than 120 of Australia’s most successful businesses. This visit is a chance for us to explore how the issues that Geelong faces line up with opportunities and challenges in other parts of the country, and hear an on the ground perspective of where the region wants to go and what actions should be taken to get there.
This year, the BCA released its Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity, which set out nine key areas Australia has to get right to lock in prosperity for all Australians, through jobs, quality services and infrastructure, and a fair social safety net for those who need it.
In a complementary project, RAI has recently released [In]Sight, Australia’s first online index and interactive map tracking the competitiveness of local government areas.
[In]Sight shows that the Geelong area continues to have a strong manufacturing base, and is considered highly competitive in technological capacity and human capital. These factors, combined with an emphasis on innovation and the collaboration between employers and employees fostered by local businesses, make it a good place to do business.
Along with these strengths, there are also significant challenges that need to be addressed, particularly the high levels of unemployment and a low workforce participation rate.
[In]Sight indicates that Geelong and the surrounding region would be better equipped to respond to future economic headwinds if it continues to diversify its economic base.
The key lesson we have drawn from earlier community conversations in Port Hedland, Wollongong and Townsville has been that the kinds of drivers and barriers of Australia's national competitiveness are writ large at the local level. This reflects the experience of BCA members, many of whom have a significant presence in regional Australia, including Geelong.
The economic reforms Australia needs to keep up in a vastly more competitive world can only be achieved if different sectors work to find and build common ground, and to negotiate where we have differences.