2007 National Economic Development Conference held in Sydney

Some 230 economic development practitioners from Local, State and Federal Governments, Area Consultative Committees and regional economic development organisations met in Sydney on Wednesday 31 October and Thursday 1 November 2007.

The Conference allowed economic development practitioners and decision makers to learn from leading examples of best practice being developed and implemented across Australia and internationally. The conference format was heavily based on case studies to enable participants to immediately use that information within their own organisations.

International speakers included Ronnie Bryant and Ann Verboeket.

Ronnie Bryant is the Chairman of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) that has 4,500 members in the US, Canada and other countries. As President and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, Ronnie Bryant leads the economic development organisation that promotes the
16 Counties in the Charlotte region of the US. With more than 30 years of technical, managerial and economic development expertise, he has a proven track record of establishing and implementing successful economic development programs.

Ann Verboeket is the Director of Professional Development, College of Practitioners with the Economic Development Association of New Zealand. EDANZ has a membership of regional and local economic development agencies throughout New Zealand and runs a professional development program, which is headed by Ann. She has a background of community and educational sectoral interests with strong links to business.

Prominent private sector representatives outlined how cooperative projects with Councils have benefited the broader community. Successful case studies in attracting investment, rebuilding local economies, developing more entrepreneurial approaches within local businesses, and identifying the key drivers in regional and local economies were outlined to delegates.

A survey conducted by Economic Development Australia on the roles and priorities of economic development practitioners was reported to delegates.

On the evening of day one of the conference more than
220 Conference delegates applauded the finalists and the winners of the Economic Development Excellence Awards (affectionately known as the ED Awards) for 2007. Sixty-eight Councils and agencies entered the 2007 Awards including city and regional Councils from across Australia.

Awards Director, Marg Nicholls, commented that high standard of received submissions proved once again that ED practitioners within local and regional governments are actively pursuing sustainable business development and growth opportunities to achieve long term economic prosperity for their regions.

Maroochy Council won the 2007 Economic Development Award for overall excellence. Maroochy’s creation of a remarkably successful marketing strategy has increased tourism revenues by more than 50 per cent winning the applause of its local business community. With one in five jobs in the local economy dependent on the tourist dollar, the ‘Discover Maroochy’ campaign has exceeded all expectations and is a fine example of an important initiative in successfully working with the local business community.

The Shire of Derby/West Kimberley’s ‘Derby Flies High’ program won the Partnerships Award. The wild and spectacular Kimberley region has suffered – or benefited depending on your point of view – from being a very long way from major population centres – Perth to the south is some 2,000 kilometres away. With a population of just over 9000, the Shire of Derby/West Kimberly has long been concerned at the lack of air services to Derby, its main centre with about half the Shire’s total population.

Mining, pastoral activities and tourism are the primary drivers of the regional economy – an economy that has been growing strongly. But there was no doubt that the lack of connecting flights was holding back the town’s economy – deterring new investment ventures and new residents.

Getting flights into the town was seen as the likely key driver of the continued growth of the Shire and its economic prosperity. In 2004, Council hosted an Air Services Summit, and subsequently approached airlines while at the same time lobbying the Western Australian Government for support.

Success followed two years later, in 2006, with the reinstatement of flights into Curtin airport, just 30 kilometres from Derby. A special partnership had been forged with OzJet Airlines. The new service is revitalising the economy and boosting employment opportunities. The State Government has subsequently announced plans for a new $92 million prison, a development that will be a further catalyst for economic activity in the Shire.