Local Governments and regional organisations across Australia have increasingly embraced economic development as a core component of their strategic program designed to increase the welfare of their residents and communities and to position cities and regions as key regional, national and global players. While the objectives of economic development facilitation are essentially the same – encouraging high levels of investment and expenditure capture, a diverse, export oriented and robust industry base, sustainable and meaningful employment for residents and a high quality of life – no two locations are alike. Economic development outcomes that may well suit one town or region will not necessarily reflect the aspirations of businesses, governments and communities in another.
In the context of Penrith, economic development encompasses a whole range of activities and functions, most of which are outlined above. These range from capacity building through such initiatives as planning for employment lands and economic research, to attracting investment by formulating an inward investment strategy and providing business support services. Historically the key principal agencies driving economic development in the city were Council and the Penrith Valley Economic Development Corporation (PVEDC) which received funding from Council, together with the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Business Enterprise Centre and in some measure the Penrith City and St Marys Town Centre Associations.
In the first part of 2007 Council received advice that the current structure of organisations and responsibilities relating to economic development in Penrith was not the most efficient. The report presented a case for rationalisation and streamlining of how Council delivers its economic development agenda to meet Penrith’s role and obligations as a regional City, and to maximise the opportunity for undertaking major project initiatives for job creation.
In view of this finding and recognising Council’s obligations to generate some 40,000 jobs by 2031, Council in partnership with the PVEDC resolved to undertake a major review of its economic development services. The review would determine the most efficient and effective structure for delivering citywide economic development and employment services in Penrith taking into account the unique challenges and opportunities faced by the City, its businesses and residents.
In undertaking this review Council consulted extensively with several Councils on their models as well as with its economic partners, including the City’s business organisations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and government agencies such as the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board. Council also received independent advice from the University of Western Sydney on international economic development models.
The economic partners generally supported the review undertaken by Council, recognising Penrith’s role as a regional city and its significant obligation for job creation. There was a clear recommendation emerging from most partners that Council should consider establishing a single, identifiable entity for delivering economic development services.
The review process culminated in Council resolving to create a single external economic development entity which would combine the roles and functions of the PVEDC and Council’s local economic development department. Council further resolved that any structural change in the delivery of economic development services be underpinned by the following key principles:
- That job creation remains the key driver for economic development initiatives in the City;
- That future funding for economic development be linked to and be accountable through job creation programs and initiatives;
- That Council continues to have an ongoing role in providing leadership and strategic directions in economic development with the new entity having a key role in the provision of contemporary advice and input in this process; and
- That the board of the new entity comprise of industry leaders representing key existing and future industries which will contribute to economic vitality and jobs growth in the City and the region.
Council consistently recognised the role and contribution of the business community and institutions in injecting a new dynamism and contemporariness in shaping the City’s economic future and attracting business investment. To this end, the value of having strong industry representation on the board of the proposed entity, both from industry sectors that dominate the local economic landscape, and also those industries which are likely to become major contributors in the future was given high priority. As a result, nine board members from a board of fourteen represent the following industry sectors:
- Transport and Logistics
- Arts, culture and Communications
- Development Sector
- Housing and Construction
- Heath and Wellbeing (including environment, tourism, recreation etc)
- Education, Training and Learning
- Business, Finance and Property
- Small Business
The remaining five board members comprise three Council and two community representatives. Representation on the board for the eleven non-council positions was via public expressions of interest from high calibre persons currently actively involved in, and with significant expertise in one or more of the above nine industry sectors, or community development with the capacity to influence economic development outcomes for the City.
The Board nomination process was finalised towards the end of 2008 and subsequently the PVEDC was reconstituted to create the new economic development entity – the Penrith Business Alliance. The PBA was formally launched in December, 2009.