Business

Regional areas are in trouble, revival lies in ‘brain hubs’

OPINION: On the road while taking a little leave, I have been able to observe how some of our regions are faring.

No rocket science is required to recognise that regional Australia is doing it tough.

In places like Byron Bay and Port Macquarie, businesses are doing it tough.

Retail especially is suffering, from seasonal factors certainly but also from the fragile economy generally.

Businesses that have been around for decades are closing.

There are empty shops. Consumers are super cautious. Tourists are staying away.

A friend who owns a bookstore in Sydney also filled me in on the impact of the revolution that is shopping online.

She said this really reached a tipping point in 2011 and that the bulk of those switching to online shopping, often purchasing overseas, had only ever known a high dollar.

People probably assume low priced overseas goods are the new normal.

She also told me about the great new consumer activity, "showrooming".

That is, many people just visit shops to find what they want then go home and buy it online.

People are in the shops but not buying.

Online shopping is not new.

But if it has reached a tipping point, when combined with the GFC that some are saying is only now hitting Australia as our China driven mining boom fades, and all the other difficulties we face (high costs, skills gaps, falling commodity prices), it makes for sobering reflection, about how we revive our regional economies and create more good jobs.

With these things in mind, while on the road I have also been dipping into a recent book by the Californian economist Enrico Moretti, The New Geography of Jobs.

This is the best book I have read on economic development for quite some time, and every economic developer worth his or her salt should have a copy on the bedside table. (And yes, I bought mine online!)

Moretti's focus is the USA but the lessons apply equally here.

He finds the answer in the story of the emergence of a couple of dozen "brain hubs".

These are the regions at the cutting edge of what we all know as the knowledge economy.

They are the places where the highly educated congregate, where innovation occurs, where productivity is highest, and where incomes are greatest.

Places need educated workers but also innovators that are highly interconnected.

The places doing best are those which invest in the innovation sector and which build the ecosystem.

Innovative firms create kick-on local jobs that are far better paying than those created by non-innovative firms in mature industries, and at a far higher rate.

They create indirect service industry jobs at far higher rates.

People will want to locate there because that is where the good jobs are.

Low-paying jobs are now done overseas.

The USA's brain hubs are doing the high-end stuff.

Designing the ipods and ipads whereas the Chinese now are assembling them.

And places like Cupertino where Apple is located is one of those brain hubs.

There the wages are high and high wage indirect jobs are also in abundance.

We need, then, to be an ideas factory if we too want to be a place of highly paid, plentiful jobs.

Certainly, let's reduce our costs and make doing business easier.

Cut red and green tape. Kill jobs destroying taxes.

We can try to attract "the right people" to our region till we are blue in the face.

But they will only come if there are plenty of good jobs in high-paying firms.

High-paying firms will be those in the business of innovation.

Moretti also says a lot about my old hobby horse, mobility.

He wants to encourage regional mobility.

Paul Collits is an associate professor at USQ Fraser Coast.

Topics:  opinion paul collits regional university of southern queensland usq


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

UPDATE: RSPCA abandon search for dog with tape on muzzle

 RSPCA Inspector Laurie Stageman.

UNSUCCESSFUL end to a 12-day search for malnourished dog

Police issue warrant over $24K theft

Security camera footage captures a thief stealing $24,000 from Indian Mehfil Restaurant in Ipswich.

CCTV footage crucial in arrest of alleged thief

Cops punched, cut during violent arrest of alleged car thief

RUSH: Police were on a frantic rush to a Boyne Island street after receiving multiple 000 calls.

Police have charged a man and a woman following the incident

Local Partners

Bell rings for the first time at Ipswich's newest school

Close to 250 Year 7 students walk through the gates at Bellbird Park State Secondary College for the first time.

Puppetry of the Penis secrets revealed ahead of show

The famed Puppetry of the Penis is coming to the Sunshine Coast for shows in Noosa and Caloundra.

WARNING: This interview contains adult themes and traces of nuts

Big flicks could soon be seen at major shopping centre

PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT: The Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre have lodged an application with the Brisbane City Council to build a new cinema and entertainment precinct.

New entertainment and dining options have residents excited.

Noll meltdown won't affect Gympie Oz Day concert

Shannon Noll

Photo Contributed

Shannon Noll is still expected to perform in Gympie next Thursday

Kristen Stewart to host SNL

Kristen Stewart will host a pre-Super Bowl episode of SNL next month

Louis Tomlinson celebrated his son's first birthday

Louis Tomlinson and Briana Jungwirth celebrate son's first birthday

Kylie Minogue will take husband's name

Kylie Minogue will take her fiancé Joshua Sasse's surname

Nicole reveals her biggest parenting challenges

Actress Nicole Kidman.

Nicole Kidman says her kids are ‘deeply attuned' to her moods.

Suicide Squad director reveals his regrets about the film

Margot Robbie in a scene from the movie Suicide Squad.

DIRECTOR of superhero flick on what he’d change about ‘flawed’ film.

Meet the new Marco on MasterChef Australia: Yotam Ottolenghi

Israeli-born, London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi will be a guest chef for a week on the 2017 season of MasterChef Australia.

AFTER Marco’s defection to Seven, MasterChef signs a true food hero.

Stockland's $150m pitch: Build it and they will come

Gladstone Marina. The Gladstone Regional Council offers a range of exciting job opportunities. Photo Contributed: Murray Ware.

Here's why we need to see Stockland upgrade start soon.

By the water's edge

Secure your seachange

HOT PROPERTY: Money to spend on land, buildings

File picture.

Sale, leasing of industrial real estate picks up in Mackay

Collapsed Coast company could owe up to $5 million

Staff, ATO, landlords among those out of pocket.

Ipswich block of dirt sells for $582 a square metre

JUST SOLD: A property on the Brookwater golf course sold for a record-breaking $612,000.

Property smashed 2007 record by close to $100,000

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!