The growth challenge and potential of regional Australia

The economic, demographic and environmental challenges in regional Australia are real but so too are the opportunities. The strengths in regional communities and businesses provide the foundation to unlocking their growth potential.

Consider the economic contribution made by regional businesses.

• Regional Australia accounts for 40 per cent of the national economic output;

• Around one third of Australia’s workforce is located in regional areas;

• More than 65 per cent of our export earnings come from regional Australia; and

• Regional Australia contributes to around 45 per cent of the $35 billion tourism sector.

This is a sector vital for broader national wellbeing.

" Small business is critical in creating jobs, supporting innovation and helping communities adapt to the opportunities presented by the transitioning Australian economy."
Christine Linden, General Manager, Regional Business Banking, ANZ Australia


Local business leaders have a critical role to play in driving growth and diversification in regional Australia.

The challenge for business owners and industry leaders is in maintaining economic momentum while unlocking the potential of the rural sector both domestically and in tapping the opportunities of overseas markets.

Many regional business owners are innovative, driven and knowledgeable about their products, services and target markets. But how can we help enable them to take the next step and foster their future growth potential?

Regardless of geographic location, upskilling small-to-medium-sized businesses to facilitate revenue growth, create jobs and expand into new markets is critical. At ANZ we see this firsthand with the participants and graduates in ANZ’s Business Growth Program.

Delivered in partnership with the University of South Australia’s Centre for Business Growth and facilitated by Dr Jana Mathews and nine national and international growth experts, the program has been successful in developing sustainable scale among Australian SMEs.


The first group of business participants in the program achieved an aggregate revenue increase of 24 per cent and profit growth of 29 per cent. The program has seen 114 jobs created, with CEOs focusing on building the right teams to support their vision and growth ambitions. Tellingly, four companies have since expanded into new, offshore markets.

Helping to clarify the existing vision and identify skill gaps while providing broader perspectives is an important element of the program.

On regional standout is South Australia’s ComFresh Group.

ComFresh CEO Johnny Tran and his executive team have worked hard to develop their fresh produce and distribution company, overhauling the business from top to bottom and setting sights on clearly defining their strategy as part of their participation in the program.

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

Photo: ComFresh CEO Johnny Tran

The opportunities have followed with ComFresh expanding to Melbourne and signing a long-term deal with Woolworths – creating jobs and sustained growth along the way.


It’s this type of success we believe can be replicated across regional Australia and it’s why the program is continuing.

Among the next cohort is Albury-based pet food producer Cool Off. The family run enterprise founded by Simon Staughton and headed by his son Edward has been producing raw pet food meats for more than 30 years and today employs around 150 people.

Cool Off is a highly innovative business brimming with potential on the back of their development of a unique offal collection process involving a customised collection and chilling unit onsite at abattoirs. The units are in 30 abattoirs across Australia with additional interest from international operators.

Cool Off is a prime example of a company with leaders who refused to stand still. It recognised early innovation and diversification could drive longer term success. Combined with the right support and guidance there is enormous opportunity to expand the business, including to meet growing export demand.

I’m excited we can play a small but important role in facilitating strategic thinking and upskilling of regional businesses to make the most of their growth potential.

This is particularly important in regional Australia, where small business is critical in creating jobs, supporting innovation and helping communities adapt to the opportunities presented by the transitioning Australian economy.

Christine Linden is General Manager, Regional Business Banking, ANZ Australia

For more information, click through to the ANZ Business Growth Program.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

01 Sep 2016

The new climate for the dairy sector

Lauren Hull | Former Communications Coordinator, University of Melbourne

Twenty years from now, dairy farming will look and feel different. By 2040, farmers will have to deal with warmer temperatures and more extreme weather events, while more variable rainfall will see seasons shift and feeding strategies altered.

30 Aug 2016

What do business and gardening have in common?

Scott Collary | Former Chief Information Officer, ANZ

If I showed you two seeds and asked you which one is a plant and which one is a weed the only way you would be able to tell is to plant them and see what blooms. It’s the same with ideas – some aren’t as great as you think. Some crazy ones work brilliantly.

23 Aug 2016

VIDEO: what every entrepreneur needs to understand about failure

Felicia Trewin | Head of Strategy & Business Optimisation, ANZ

It’s almost become a cliché for start-ups: fail fast. But according to venture capitalist Brad Feld, prospective entrepreneurs do need to critically reassess their understanding of failure if they are to succeed in the modern world of technology.