Roz White from White's Bli Bli IGA.
Roz White from White's Bli Bli IGA. Warren Lynam

Development bashing is way off the mark

IT HAS become increasingly popular for commentators to decry development and growth, paint developers as evil and accuse regional councils of acting to ensure they make exorbitant profits.

Certainly that was the thrust of Michael Burgess' argument on this page on December 3.

Among other things, Mr Burgess, of the Lake Kawana Community Association, claimed construction was a "short-term” industry and building homes was a "passive resource” that generated no income for the region.

He also believed shopping malls were a drain on regional economies.

I'm a keen advocate of free speech, and I respect anybody's right to hold an opinion. I just think he's way off the mark.

In my experience, Sunshine Coast businesses - big and small - are driven by a desire to grow and develop; to create jobs; and, in so doing, to provide a sound future for themselves, their children and for future generations of Sunshine Coast people.

In most cases they are owned and run by mums and dads, sons and daughters; people who are prepared to take risks, upgrade their businesses, and seek innovative ways to stay afloat - and grow.

Take the example of Roz and Michael White, of White's IGA.

They started out 25 years ago, renting a modest corner store in Maroochydore. Roz kept her job at the bank so they could pay their three staff.

Today they employ 270 locals in their Bli Bli and Peregian Beach stores, their workers ranging in age from 14 to old enough to qualify for the aged pension.

Most recently, the Whites demolished their original Bli Bli store and replaced it with one six times the size, utilising state-of-the-art technology to reduce the carbon footprint.

The store was tuned to serve and cater for the needs of their local customers.

Roz and Michael estimate at least 40% of the produce they sell is locally grown. They believe in creating job opportunities, not just in their stores, but for regional producers.

They support local manufacturers such as Crazyfresh, which now supplies 20 IGA stores, and the Woombye Cheese Company, which produces handcrafted artisan cheese from local Jersey milk.

Crazyfresh, which produces fresh meals, is the brainchild of Mathew Walker and was conceived within the Sunshine Coast Innovation Centre. Since start-up in April it has continued to expand.

Now Crazyfresh has been approached by a 38-outlet retail chain in South Australia which wants its quality, locally-sourced and manufactured food line.

I am constantly seeing the innovation of our local manufacturers, service providers and developers. And I never fail to be impressed.

Roz and Michael White took a million-dollar punt on Warana refrigeration manufacturer John Maslen.

John designed, manufactured and installed his energy reducing refrigeration system throughout the Whites' Bli Bli store.

The gamble paid off. A world first, John Maslen's innovative design has attracted world attention, including from China where John has established a plant in northern China with the aim of introducing his systems to that massive market.

John has had to move to larger premises and over the past three years his team has doubled in size.

His is the only Australian company to be recognised by the new global website, designed to "... spotlight the best of the best”.

Our Federal Government has invited John to be a member of a select government committee seeking to source world's best practice in refrigeration energy reduction.

He, the Whites and Mathew Walker are proof positive that it's not governments that create jobs - people do.

When Mathew Walker's Crazyfresh products hit the shelves of White's IGA, Roz White engaged dietitian Kristie Fleishmann, who now visits the store to chat to customers about the nutritional value of various foods.

Another Sunshine Coast success story is Youi, which established its Australian headquarters here five years ago.

After renting The Edge building on Lake Kawana, uncertain whether experienced local staff would be available, Youi has since tripled its original staff base and outgrown its accommodation.

Now the company is building a global headquarters at Sippy Downs, at an estimated cost of $68 million.

The first stage will accommodate its current 900 workers, with a planned second stage to house up to 3000 people.

The four-level building will be connected to the University of the Sunshine Coast by road and walking paths. It will have state of the art on-site electricity generators and water storage.

Sunshine Coast Council, which is working with Youi, recognises the need to upgrade infrastructure. It is expanding the airport, and is an enthusiastic supporter of the new regional public hospital.

Importantly it recognises the need for businesses, big and small - even a one-man show working out of a home office - to link efficiently to global communication systems.

That's why it is passionately pursuing private business to deliver an international submarine broadband cable to the Coast, making ours the only regional centre in Australia to offer direct international broadband connection to global markets.

Every person who lives in this beautiful part of the world cares about our local environment, lifestyle and community.

The key to our Coast's successful future is the community. That involves growth which, in turn, means infrastructure and, yes, development.

Development, Mr Burgess, is the result of a growing community - not the driver.

Tony Riddle, an accountant and company director, is the chairman of Regional Development Australia Sunshine Coast, part of a national network of 55 committees made up of local leaders who work with all levels of government, business and community groups to support the development of their regions.

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