01/09/2015 - 06:02

Smaller globe puts world in reach

01/09/2015 - 06:02


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We are at the right place at the right time, we just haven’t noticed.

SWELL TIMES: Opportunities lie ahead for WA, if we position ourselves to best utilise our natural advantages. Photo: Attila Csaszar

We are at the right place at the right time, we just haven’t noticed.

No matter where you look, it all seems like bad news right now.

However, as I have stated before, the downturn we are experiencing was always coming and, for many businesses and individuals, it’s offered a chance to reset or restart.

While this is not always easy, or in many cases even voluntary, sometimes these times of crisis bring out the best in people, teams, and the community.

Our focus on innovation this week is a part of that.

One way to return a career, a business, and an economy to a more stable footing is to innovate; it’s the logical extension of Albert Einstein’s quip that it is ‘insanity’ to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

The days of high growth in our resources sector are over, at least for some considerable time.

To continue hoping for global recovery to return margins to our miners and oil producers may be optimistic, but it’s not practical.

That is not to say, as many seem to, that the days of resources are over. During the past 10 years, Western Australian businesses have built a formidable array of assets and expertise that will underpin this economy for decades.

But easy profits for the majority of businesses in that sector are harder to come by.

Of course I’m not saying we should wring our hands with dismay simply because the resources boom is over; nor should we lament, however, that instead of digging up the dirt we ought to have focused on developing some form of Silicon Valley.

WA’s edge is not being a high-tech centre; we are too far away from capital, markets and traditional pools of expertise to imagine such a hub could simply materialise here when we need it.

That said, now is the time to innovate, using our skills, our particular circumstances and geography, to make the most of what we have built so we are ready to capitalise in the future.

It’s sometimes forgotten that Perth is a city of less than 2 million people, located in the most sparsely populated state on the western third of a sparsely populated continent. There are many cities of this size or more, better placed geographically or demographically than we are to become technology hubs or global innovation centres. Yet we’ve barely heard of them, just as they have little knowledge about us.

Sometimes we just expect too much of ourselves.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t punch above our weight in terms of contributing to the new economy.

We have many advantages over other cities and regions that allow us to contemplate a future full of rich opportunities, rather than some forlorn decline into rustbelt oblivion.

Some of these advantages are clichéd, but they exist nevertheless.

Western Australians are born optimists; how could you not be in a place like this?

• The climate is attractive and our lifestyle is envied by much of the world. This a powerful tool to retain talent, especially when other markets are struggling to offer alternative economic attractions.

• Resources provides a level of affluence that underwrites other economic opportunity. While the mining boom may have overwhelmed other industries, it has generated wealth and long-term jobs that will continue to provide growth opportunities. Well-paid casual jobs, a secure health system, and affordable education options mean WA is still a place to start a career.

These core attributes – attractive geography and stable community – create a safety net that has bred the risk-taking, entrepreneurial attitude which has been strength of our business community.

• A more recent advantage is our connectivity. We are no longer as far away from the action as we used to be, due to our proximity to the world’s growth engine – Asia.

Furthermore, new technology continues to bring the world closer in a virtual sense. The app stores of the world don’t differentiate between products developed in City Beach or Silicon Valley – they either work or they don’t.

How could it be better? We now have access to global markets; we have local knowledge of the world’s hottest growth area; we are an educated, healthy population speaking the globe’s most business-friendly language but we don’t feel as crowded, polluted or particularly threatened as many around the world do. Let’s just take advantage of that, shall we?


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