New economic development model reaps rewards for Wagga Wagga

Wagga Wagga City Council in New South Wales has adopted a unique economic development model. Rather than using traditional inhouse or development corporation models, Council has engaged a private company to provide the City with economic development services.

In 2000, Wagga Wagga was experiencing negative growth for the first time. It saw a loss of manufacturing and generally negative sentiment regarding economic performance. Businesses were disengaged and as a result had a poor relationship with Council and other major institutions. Therefore, in 2001, Council determined that economic growth was the key priority for the City.

Council engaged the Commercial Response Unit (theCRU) to assist in developing and implementing strategies to promote economic growth in the City. TheCRU provides services to Council by way of a three year contract linked to an agreed business plan.

Director of theCRU, Gary Wells, said developing economic strategies is important, but how those strategies are implemented is critical to their success.

“Wagga Wagga wanted to be capable of driving a new approach to regional economic development through commercially focused activity, rather than a reliance on Government support,” he said. “The model also needed to be simple to administer, attractive to business and resourced to deliver short term job growth and longer term strategies to ensure continued growth in the City.”

Council engaged extensively with the local business community, holding breakfast meetings involving over 500 local businesses over an 18 month period. It then established an Advisory Committee to the Council – the Commercial Strategy Advisory Committee (CSAC). CSAC comprises 16 members sourced from businesses across the City, and the Mayor. It is purely advisory and has no power to make decisions. The committee meets monthly and develops and reviews the City’s economic strategy, making strategic recommendations to Council.

Gary Wells said theCRU meets informally fortnightly with Wagga Wagga’s Mayor and General Manager and reports formally each month to Council through CSAC.

“This structure provides complete control for Council in determining the appropriate economic strategies for the City, within the context of the broader City plan,” he said. “There is no delegation of control to a board, as this can result in conflicting strategic priorities and impasses.

“The model also ensures quality advice is provided by business to the Council through the CSAC, without creating administrative overheads or restrictive conflicts of interest.”

The three core objectives of the new model have been embodied in a simple, accessible plan – ‘Acceler8–Wagga Wagga – 8 Strategies for Success’. The objectives include growing jobs in existing businesses, broadening the City’s economic base and marketing the City to attract people and investment.

With several new businesses now established and the expansion of two existing businesses, in excess of 1,150 jobs and over $650 million in capital expenditure have been created through the new model. The City’s population growth rate has also increased from -0.2 per cent in 2000/01 to 1.5 per cent in 2005/06.

For further information on the model contact Gary Wells on (02) 6925 9799.