THE Coffs Coast is in the grip of an economic slump but there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to the experts.
Professor Ian Eddie from Southern Cross University’s School of Business says there is no overnight fix as we grapple with the impact of the strong Australian dollar feeding down to the retail sector.
Locally, a staggering 16 busin-esses have shut down since early January and welfare agencies are reporting a significant rise in demand for services.
While family budgets are getting tighter and tighter, Professor Eddie says we must now play to our strengths to start the long-term recovery.
“Getting a group together and empowering the leadership to respond in a broad and strategic way is really critical to addressing this,” Prof Eddie said. “It is not an immediate fix but a strategic and long-term approach. Use what you have to maximum advantage.
“Coffs Harbour has good connectivity in terms of transport and that is critical and SCU has been very active in the connectivity of broadband and that can create a competitive edge.
“The Coffs Coast needs to make business here attractive, with concessional benefits for businesses to relocate or start up.
“If 16 businesses have closed down and 20 new ones have opened, that is not a bad thing; it is part of the process of reform and change.”
Prof Eddie says the challenge for every local economy is that financial systems are always changing and the economy is always adapting.
“For a region to succeed it needs to identify industries and build capabilities using innovation to build a price advantage,” he said. “When you innovate and create new products you have an advantage – it might only be for one or two years then you need to come up with something new again. You need to become really good at something.”
Professor Eddie said the Coffs Coast had opportunities it could pursue through Southern Cross University; tourism, healthcare and the IT industry to build high-quality jobs. He said the way forward required leadership with a consistent vision supported through zoning of land, knowledge parks and regional development responses and regional leaders needed to be continually pressing government.