Demographer Bernard Salt believes Newcastle and the Hunter set to benefit in years to come

CONFIDENCE: Newcastle.
CONFIDENCE: Newcastle.

Businesses in Newcastle should have faith in the city’s future despite the region falling below national averages in a snapshot of Australia’s small business economy.

According to one of the country’s leading demographers, Bernard Salt – who spoke at a Xero small business insights event in the CBD on Wednesday – Newcastle is a place of confidence amid the city and region’s changing landscape. 

He believes a bubble of “entrepreneurial spirit” that began after the closure of BHP Steelworks lives on.

“Having been here at the time of the announcement of closures in 1999 and experienced the concern in the room at that time, I made the point [today] that from a period of real concern for the future at the turn of the century, Newcastle very quickly developed an entrepreneurial survival skill,” Mr Salt said. 

“To the extent that it is now one of the most entrepreneurial lifestyle areas in Australia. It’s benefited from over-spill from Sydney, in the sense that the more expensive and congested it gets, the prettier Newcastle looks.”

POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Demographer Bernard Salt says the Hunter is going to benefit from its entrepreneurial lifestyle into the future. Picture: Paul Jones.

POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Demographer Bernard Salt says the Hunter is going to benefit from its entrepreneurial lifestyle into the future. Picture: Paul Jones.

He spoke of the region’s ability to reinvent itself and the outlook for the Hunter.

“I made a couple of points about why I would have faith in Newcastle and the Hunter region over the period to 2030,” he said. “I think the region will benefit from strong population growth as people escape Sydney. Baby-boomers will downshift out of Sydney, they’ll take their high property prices and downshift to a lifestyle property in Newcastle, the Central Coast and the Hunter.

“I think that next generation of commuters in Sydney won’t be prepared to sit in traffic to get to and from work, I reckon baby-boomers were the last generation prepared to do that. 

There’s going to be a new generation that wants a different lifestyle, and that lifestyle could well be an entrepreneurial, fluid, affordable, dynamic city like Newcastle.

Demographer Bernard Salt

“There’s going to be a new generation that wants a different lifestyle, and that lifestyle could well be an entrepreneurial, fluid, affordable, dynamic city like Newcastle.” 

Of concern in the Hunter, was businesses being paid late, as the average payment time is 37.16 days, longer than the national average of 35.62 days.

Mr Salt put that down to many business operators dealing with “friends or close associates”, but believes it is a habit that needs to stop to ensure further productivity and future business activity.

Small business employment levels rising by 4.98 per cent in the past year, below the national average of 7.36 per cent, were in Mr Salt’s view not of major concern.