Bold new campaign for economic growth

A BOLD NEW CAMPAIGN to identify, prioritise and plan specific projects in the Cooma-Monaro shire to boost economic activity is being developed for presentation to the incoming council.

Prepared by community group Cooma Unlimited the campaign would by-pass the need for a dedicated economic development officer on council’s staff.

It involves the formation of a new economic development committee comprising elected councillors, council staff and members of the community with expertise in particular areas.

The committee would identify specific projects and appoint task forces to develop them. They would take into account the full range of economic development including tourism and industrial interests.

“The projects will make Cooma and the shire a better place to live, and all of them should result in job creation,” according to the chair of Cooma Unlimited Dugald Mitchell.

There could be several task forces operating at any one time, meeting only a few times before reporting back to the main committee.

The committee would have a “drawer full of plans” so what when submissions are called for by any of the three tiers of government, a project would be ready.

Mr Mitchell said two immediate projects could be closed circuit television (CCTV) for the central business district, and educating local retailers and their staff on local tourist destinations.

Mr Mitchell’s campaign is developed against the background of a “strategy for economic development of Cooma” prepared by the former chairman of the now defunct Snowy Enterprise Centre, Sid Downie.

He urges the adoption of a “logical long-term economic development policy” with relevant strategies, goals and economically viable plans.

He warns against continuation of the current demographic trend - an ageing and “younging” of the population devoid of middle-aged families and increasingly dependent on welfare. Unless this changed, Cooma would eventually stagnate.

Mr Downie refers to previous negative council attitudes towards “growth” and entrepreneurial endeavour, and council’s reluctance to formally take on an economic development role.

His strategy paper canvasses the goal of increasing the shire’s population by at least 20 per cent, or 2,000 people, by 2020.

It also advocates attracting five medium size businesses, each with at least 50 employees, by late 2014.

Both Mr Downie’s strategy and Mr Mitchell’s action plan have been accepted by Cooma Unlimited.

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