Business Council CEO will ‘spread the word’ about our Coast
SHE mixes with Westpac CEO Gail Kelly, WA mining magnate Andrew Forrest, Wesfarmers director Richard Goyder and some of China's most high-powered business leaders.
And these are just the people who might hear more about the Sunshine Coast when Jennifer Westacott next has their ear.
The Business Council of Australia CEO was on the Sunshine Coast last week at the invitation of the Sunshine Coast Business Council.
"You have a $13b economy, which is a big economy in a regional context," she said.
"One of the things I'll be doing from today is promoting what's happening here and the opportunities for business across the country.
"That will inform future business council ideas, making sure we're not city-centric, but telling our member companies 'here's a great place to invest and come and look', to make sure it's not just a visit; there's some investment flowing from it."
Local business leaders in the room, representing property, education, local government, innovation, tourism and legal industries, raised frustration at the impact of election cycles on the airport upgrade as well as penalty rates and red tape; while Sunshine Coast Business Council chairperson Sandy Zubrinich spoke of her struggle to find support for the region's agriculture sector.
Ms Westacott returned often in her speech to the 500 million Chinese tourists and the three billion people in the Asian middle class as big spenders places like the Sunshine Coast could woo.
"We need to give them a high-quality experience, which means investing in infrastructure and looking at labour market flexibility, penalty rates and things like that so people can be profitable opening on a Sunday.
"This region is hugely important to the state and national economy."
She said the Business Council's mantra was essentially economic growth with a social dividend.
The council's nine priority areas, as part of its action plan, are: tax reform, planning for population growth, infrastructure investment, lifting education standards, reducing red tape, global engagement, a stable financial system, low-cost energy policies, a system for innovation.
"If it is well managed and well delivered, economic growth is the tool that gives people better living standards," she said.
Ms Westacott said it took a collaboration to ensure the BCA action plan was implemented, praising council for its push to diversify the local economy away from its traditional base of tourism, construction and retail.
"You can't pick one sector and hope for the best but you have to play to your strengths and make sure you are investing in what you're famous for and what makes you strong.
"You need to be investing in those emerging sectors which on a global scale are where demand is going to be very strong.
"Think about where demand is going to come from.
"I really encourage that diversification," Ms Westacott said.
►Sunshine Coast Business Council chair Sandy Zubrinich's comments
"The Sunshine Coast Business Council was delighted with the turnout at the lunch with Jennifer Westacott the CEO of Business Council of Australia. It certainly demonstrates that our business community appreciates the opportunity to hear from prominent national business leaders and there are none more informed on the economy and the political environment than Ms Westacott," Ms Zubrinich said.
"Ms Westacott provided an excellent overview of the Business Council of Australia's Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity which is their view for a 10-year vision for Australia and it was encouraging that their plan shared a number of themes with our local Regional Economic Development Strategy.
"Both Ms Westacott's presentation and the questions asked by members of our business community highlighted the key issues regarding economic growth, including acceleration of key infrastructure projects, fast-tracking of land-use approvals, escalating staffing costs and the importance of regional areas as part of the greater economy.
"However, above all, I believe the most important message Ms Westacott reiterated was the importance of collaboration between the business community and all levels of government if we are to achieve the desired outcomes in all of these areas, as well as the value successful companies and leaders bring in collaborating and mentoring other businesses, particularly in this competitive global market."
►JENNIFER WESTACOTT'S TIPS FOR PROSPERITY
Be unashamed about economic growth
Be prepared for criticism
Form alliances, even with strange bedfellows
Provide a practical roadmap, don't ask for mission impossible