Top economist with passion helps to plot our future

HE IS an economist with a passion for small business and a deep interest in regional communities.

He has worked for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, was chief economist for the council of small business organisations of Australia and launched a website in 2005 giving small business owners access to the latest in big business thinking.

He has written a book on the importance of small business in regional economies and has a PhD in Economics from the Australian National University.

Now, Kim Houghton is helping to plan the economic development and prosperity of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council.

Mr Houghton, the director of Strategic Economic Solutions, a company that works to help regional communities understand and prosper from economic change, has been contracted to facilitate the newly formed Economic Development Taskforce in Cooma.

The 11 man taskforce, consisting of some of Cooma's key business and management 'thinkers', had its first official meeting last Wednesday.

It has until November to recommend priorities and an action plan to achieve specific outcomes on how to move forward with economic development in the shire.

Mr Houghton said he was looking forward to working with the taskforce.

"It was great to finally meet the members of the taskforce and I am sure that with the level of enthusiasm shown, we should be able to achieve some great outcomes for the Cooma-Monaro Shire," he said.

Mr Houghton gave a presentation to the taskforce members on various aspects of the Cooma-Monaro Shire which included current demographics on population growth, population shift and the future projections.

"This sort of information is critical for members to understand so they are able to formulate informed plans for the future of the shire."

Cooma-Monaro Shire Mayor Dean Lynch chaired the first meeting and said the members were surprised by some of the data findings.

"One of the interesting figures is that while Cooma's has a stable population that is steadily growing, there is shift in the population. About 20 per cent leave the area, and 20 per cent move to the area," he said.

"The taskforce will decipher why that's happening."

He said the first couple of meetings would be about gathering information about the area, so the taskforce can make informed decisions about the future direction of economic development. Then, it will get down to business.

Taskforce members are seeking input from local businesses and members of the public with practical and positive suggestions about how to encourage jobs and prosperity in the shire.

The taskforce is expected to meet again on July 24.

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