Nestled in the bucolic south west fringe of the Sydney metropolis, Camden is both the fastest growing LGA in the country and an historical gem.
With the population forecast to increase from the current estimate of 100,000 to more than 230,000 by 2036, Camden faces unique opportunities and challenges to consciously foster a sustainable economic future.
The Camden Region Economic Taskforce (CRET) was established by Council in 2017 as an independent company to support the economic prosperity of the Camden region. CRET brings together key local business leaders and experts to drive and facilitate the economic growth of the area through leadership, advocacy and coordination. There is a clear focus on delivering the right conditions to create jobs, attract investment and support the growth of business and industry.
At a recent strategy realignment day, facilitated by Cities Leadership Institute, CRET Board and staff addressed, among other things, the issue of developing Camden Region’s identity and narrative. This will in turn inform and illustrate the assets, advantages and aspirations of the people and the place.
Debbie Roberts, CRET Executive Officer, spoke to Cities Leadership Institute about the process and the future.
Cities Leadership Institute: Many of the ‘best things’ identified about the Camden region are to do with its physical beauty, the river, the botanical gardens, its farms and open spaces as well as its heritage.
How does CRET plan to integrate these assets into a greater ‘business attractive’ narrative?
Debbie Roberts: CRET is focusing on ‘telling the story’ of our many great tourism assets and the supportive business environment.
We are working to showcase these assets and environment in a number of ways including a Camden Region promotional video, on social media, at events, via our electronic newsletter and on our website.
We are also building the ‘business story’ in an effort to attract new businesses and investors to our region.In one example we are actively seeking hotel and accommodation providers to invest in our rapidly growing LGA, so we can better accommodate the existing and future visitor economy.
Another example is CRET’s current support of an application to the NSW Government My Community grant program for developing a Tourism App. If successful we will develop a mobile application with an Augmented Reality (AR) experience for the user.This will be designed to assist people with identifying, learning about, and visiting local Camden tourist, heritage, arts and cultural sites.
Participating in the Cities Leadership Smart Cities Domestic Exchange last year, allowed me to explore potential projects, like this, for the future benefit of our residents, businesses and visitors.
CLI: How do you see the story of Camden community, the narrative of place, being expressed physically into the region?
DR: We are in the process of creating a Camden Business YouTube channel whereby local businesses have expressed interest in participating in telling the story of why they opened their business in the Camden region.
We are also ‘telling and selling the story’ of our region to government organisations, to existing and potential businesses, and at meetings, conference, events, workshops. We believe we are building an environment in Camden that people will want to live in, making it an ideal place to attract quality employees and provide them with a lifestyle that would make others envious outside of work. . . . so, “whatever your business is, you’re at home here.”
CLI: The Camden region has a young and growing population. In 2016 the region had a higher proportion of pre-schoolers and a lower proportion of people at post retirement age than Greater Sydney.
How do you factor this into the Taskforce activity around training and retaining young people locally?
DR: One of our aims is to support young people transitioning into further education and employment within the region. Two of our current initiatives are Generation STEM and a Long Business Lunch.
The Generation STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program partners local high school students with the CSIRO. The aim is to develop greater local opportunities for the community and capitalise on the new developments around the Western Sydney Airport. The partnership is working to increase youth engagement in community issues; increase scientific literacy and interest in STEM careers; and build connections between schools, industry and the community.
Together with MWLP, a local community organisation that focuses on preparing young people for the world of work while also addressing the needs of business, we are planning to showcase the hospitality skills of VET students. At a Long Business Lunch in September the students will cook and serve a 3-course meal to invited representatives of the local business community. This event will give students practical experience, while also creating potential employment opportunities.
CLI: During a session on Driving Economic Growth at the strategy realignment day, a number of key points were identified to strengthen the capability and accessibility of the City. How do you plan to move this activity forward?
DR: This is a work in progress!
The recommendation that came out of that session looked at CRET facilitating partnerships between Council and community stakeholders to develop a program that leverages our existing city assets to create hubs, or precincts, that align with our regions unique identity.
One action we are exploring is developing an innovation hub in our LGA. We will also continue to work on increasing the tourism offering in Camden and showcasing existing assets.
Another initiative to strengthen our capability is our partnership with Western Sydney University (WSU). Together we are organising a range of events and workshops that will showcase technology and digital solutions. Once in action, this partnership will provide better connections between the University and the business community.