Regional growth areas outlined over breakfast

REGIONAL FOCUS: Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce president Lynette Martin and Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast chief executive David Wheaton at Wednesday’s chamber breakfast meeting. Picture: BRITTANY DENTON

FIVE key areas for regional development were outlined at the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting Wednesday.

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Limestone Coast chief executive David Wheaton provided insight into the organisation and highlighted its involvement in a number of multi-million dollar projects.

Mr Wheaton – who was appointed as chief executive two years ago – has 20 years experience working with business, government and community leaders at a strategic level to foster economic development and business growth.

“RDA is about local solutions to local problems – our board is made up of local people who come up with strategies to attract jobs and look at key investment in terms of infrastructure,” Mr Wheaton explained.

“When I joined the organisation I felt we had a broad focus and I wanted to narrow that down to some key, measurable ideas.

“We have outlined the five pillars of regional development as infrastructure, human capital, investment, social capital and natural environment.”

RDA Limestone Coast is funded by all three tiers of government and receives around $700,000 per year.

“We are in a unique position where we are able to work across all three levels of government,” Mr Wheaton said.

“20pc of our funding is from the Federal Government, 70pc from the State Government and 10pc from Local Government.

“Over the past 12 months we have secured investment for 19 projects, which has equated to $19.5m being invested in the region – not a bad return for that $700,000.”

Mr Wheaton highlighted a number of projects including a proposed multi-million dollar bio energy plant at Blue Lake Milling in Bordertown and the RDA’s lobbying to help Grant District Council secure funding for the Mount Gambier Airport.

“If any business has a funding application in the private or public sector we can assist in that process and provide economic analysis,” he said.

“We conducted feasibility studies for biomass investments and Blue Lake Milling is now looking at a multi-million dollar plant that will essentially take them off the grid.

“RDA is also available to provide advice on business planning and restructuring organisations.

“We recently put 130 forestry workers through training to upgrade their skills – human capital is crucial to regional development and any business can make contact with us and we will be more than happy to help.”

RDA Limestone Coast has tabled its regional growth plan, with six priority areas between now and 2026.

“In terms of population, we have set a goal of bringing 2000 additional people into the region before 2026,” Mr Wheaton said.

“Agribusiness is so important to this region and our plan has identified to increase the number of jobs in that sector by 1000.

“It goes without saying that tourism is a terrific opportunity for this region and we will aim to create 800 new jobs in the tourism sector.”

The breakfast meeting was preceded by the chamber’s annual general meeting, at which the membership of the board remained unchanged.