For the local business community in Townsville, including local politicians, yes, there are some policy issues and government interest is always welcome, but the future is largely in their own hands they believe.
Sometimes the challenge is parochial: local efforts have emphasised the importance of a new $250 million sports stadium (housing the Townsville National Rugby League team the Cowboys) however for the business community improved rail and road infrastructure would deliver a greater economic benefit.
If Townsville is emblematic of the opportunity and challenge for regional Australia, the issue is not demand or a tyranny of distance: Asia is on the doorstep, offering consumers and capital. The evidence for engagement is profound.
Of more than 1,000 Australian businesses surveyed by ANZ, of those already in Asia, 48 per cent say revenue derived from their Asian operations was higher than their domestic revenue.
Seventy six per cent who have expanded into Asia say profits have increased substantially. Thirty eight per cent of small businesses who are doing business in Asia achieved a return on investment within 12 months. Close to 60 per cent of medium sized businesses and around 40 per cent of larger businesses accomplished this within three years.
Business optimism can be a fragile and intangible attribute and the current global climate doesn’t help. For all that, for regional centres with an opportunity like Townsville there’re plenty of positive signs to be seen if unfounded biases, like those against foreign capital, can be overcome.
Andrew Cornell is managing editor at BlueNotes