JUICY GOODNESS: Grove Juice is one of the businesses taking advantage of what the region has to offer.
JUICY GOODNESS: Grove Juice is one of the businesses taking advantage of what the region has to offer. Georja Ryan

OPPORTUNITY: 1500 jobs coming to Southern Downs

AN AMBITIOUS target of 1500 new jobs by 2020 is a key focus of the Southern Downs Regional Council's economic strategy.

With local industries showing impressive growth, Mayor Tracy Dobie said the goal was within reach.

Cr Dobie says almost 1000 new jobs will be created between now and the end of 2019. "Almost all of that has been from businesses that are already located here," Cr Dobie said.

Chamber of Commerce president Julia Keogh said there has been a huge upward trend in the region's economic outlook, thanks to developments at such places as Rose City Shoppingworld and John Dee, and growth further afield at such places as the Carramar aged care facility in Stanthorpe.

"It's about being able to tap into the fact that we do have a truly affordable region to live in, so there is opportunity to attract new businesses and existing businesses into investing," Ms Keogh said.

Grove Juice is one company taking advantage of what the region has to offer.

"The company as a whole is looking at putting in some major capital improvements, which means there is going to be an increased need for manpower," Ms Keogh said.

The job targets are part of the council's economic development strategy that will be released for public consultation in early 2018.

Other key targets include a 10 per cent population increase and $300 million in new investments by 2020.

Cr Dobie said the council was also focused on attracting new industries to the region.

"Businesses we've never seen before, we want them to come here as well," she said.

Manufacturing industry is one area of opportunity, according to Cr Dobie, who said having more manufacturers could also benefit the region's farmers by cutting down on travel costs.

But others are concerned the focus is being drawn away from existing local business.

Councillor Vic Pennisi said it was important to address any inhibitors to growth among businesses already established in the region.

"It's a little bit like retail," Cr Pennisi said.

"It's easier to increase sales to existing customers than it is to attract new ones.

"I am suggesting we should attract new people to the district but to also find inhibitors to existing business and people who wish to invest locally."

Cr Pennisi believes there is potential for growth across all sectors, but factors like road conditions, planning and government red tape could be holding local industries back.

"How can we take these (industries) to the next level?" Cr Pennisi asked in yesterday's general council meeting.

The council will consider the community's response before moving forward with the Economic Development Plan, but the overall prospects are positive, with the region's unemployment rate tracking below the state average.

Ms Keogh said housing affordability was a major drawcard for the Southern Downs.

Some in the community believe it is more important to look at ways of taking existing industries to the next level.


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