An Economic Development Strategy (EDS) has been proposed by the Yass Valley Council, as a way of capitalising on Yass’ already strong economic credentials.
Director of Corporate and Community Services, Sheri Norton, describes the intent of the EDS as “bringing together information on economic strengths, needs and opportunities in an action plan that supports a cohesive and prosperous business environment for all areas of Yass Valley.”
The draft strategy was placed on public exhibition on June 26. “The ‘on exhibition’ period closed on the 31st of July with comments currently being collated to be presented in a report at the next Council meeting on August 27,” said Ms Norton.
Despite statistics showing as positive economic climate Ms Norton told the Tribune that there are six key issues affecting economic development, and “the proposed actions to these six key issues identified as affecting economic development in Yass Valley. The issues address how they will mitigate the issue and stimulate economic growth. Many of these actions involve Canberra”.
The key issues addressed in the document involve the influence of Canberra on Yass, sharing common boundaries with the fast growing suburbs of Canberra’s north. The advantage of the Yass Valley’s location, changing with population trends in a way which meets sustainability and liveability goals.
Economic development manager, Rebecca Gowan, is confident with the financial growth of the area, explaining that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reveals the
Yass Valley as doing quite well compared to most other regional areas.
“The statistics on socio-economic disadvantage (SEIFA) score Yass Valley as the second highest for non-Sydney LGA’s, meaning we are ranked second highest for socio-economic advantage,” she said.
She explains that ABS 2013 statistics show 3,816 people relocated to Yass Valley between 2006 and 2011, the population is now 6,921 in Yass and 16,270 residents live in Yass Valley local government area, a population density of 0.04 persons per hectare.
The strategy outlines the advantages in availability of high paying jobs within commuting distance, Yass enjoying a very low rate of unemployment of 2.4 percent, well below the average for regional NSW.
Local industries and employers will be individually addressed for further development, infrastructure and services such as water, sewerage, and transport and communication infrastructure, significantly impacting on the amount and type of economic activity that can be developed.
Many community members have raised concerns about empty shopfronts, troubledthat it may reflect ill-health on the Yass Valley economy. Ms Gowan suggests that although the councildoesn’thave any statistics on empty shopfronts, it does not reveal any challenges for the economy.
“In the last few months in my position as economic development manager, I have had more trouble finding someone an empty space than finding people to fill empty spaces.”
Gross Regional Product for Yass Valley for the 2012-13 year was $517 million, a two percent growth from the previous year, according to information from the Australian Trading Economics.
“There seems to be a fairly major slump in consumer confidence everywhere and any perceived slowdown here may be more a symptom of the broader economic climate,” said Ms Gowan.
Still the strategy aims to address small business limitations, noting the lack of appropriate retail/office space, understanding of development process, skills and training, and employee attraction and retention.
The proposed action will address these limitations through auditing of available and potential commercial space, conducting gap analysis of existing small businesses, exploring improvement programs, information and training and the improvement in the pre-application development and compliance process, for employment generating development.
The strategy includes a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis
(SWOT), and looks at how these may impact on growth. The strengths include the location and accessibility of the Yass Valley, with spacious, cohesive and well developed tourism industries.
Access to a variety of well-paid, skilled jobs in Canberra, as the Yass population is highly educated and skilled, with above average incomes. Others include the compact design of Yass, its proximity to education, shopping, lifestyle, culture and real-estate.
The SWOT analysis can be perceived as somewhat contradictory, specifically in regards to Canberra. The location to Canberra is an economically strength with the population increases in the Yass Valley and a weakness with inconsistent and limited tourism and retail operating hours, and its proximity to Canberra for commuters.
“Canberra was listed as a weakness due to the high proportion of residents working in Canberra being more likely to utilise Canberra goods and service providers. It is also a
strength, as most of our growth comes from people moving from Canberra to Yass Valley to enjoy the lifestyle,” said Ms Norton.
The strategy presents a number of positive development opportunities, such as attracting a major employer, a state or federal government department, which would help to improve this diversity. The key limiting factor for development of this kind or other knowledge-based employers is the availability of appropriate buildings which meets modern office requirements.
Other development plans include providing further transportation services for commuters, providing the community with an RV and caravan construction and expanding tourism.
The EDS focuses on providing economic independence for the Yass Valley, not just moving with the swell of growth or decline of the ACT economy.
Ms Norton explains that the next step in actioning the strategy will include “following consultation with the community and final endorsement by Council, an Action Plan will be developed to guide implementation of the Yass Valley Economic Development Strategy”.
This strategy, along with the Main Street Strategy (detailing the Councils plans to enhance long term growth) are currently under development and will be released for final community consultation within the next few weeks. Both plans aim to ensure Yass has the right infrastructure and processes in place to help drive economic growth in the area.
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