Courage, compassion needed for regional growth

With speculation about the direction of the state’s property market and increased conjecture about a time when there may be fewer cranes in our skyline, business leaders are forecasting what might be needed for the region to support continued growth for industry, business and the community.

EVOLVING: The author suggests embracing transformation as a logical step forward.

EVOLVING: The author suggests embracing transformation as a logical step forward.

While most welcome the ongoing transformations to the city and the business opportunities that come with increased investment, diversification of infrastructure and employment, the challenge for the region will be to understand what happens when activity inevitably softens.

Recently, about 20 business and community leaders took part in a series of leadership forums that we facilitated in partnership with the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle. The forum featured former head of NRMA, Kyle Loades and entrepreneur Heidi Alexandra Pollard. Together with other local leaders in the sectors of transport, business services, aged care, industrial, education and construction, they debated some of the choices the region would need to make to maintain growth, create business diversity and cultivate employment opportunities.

Future proofing our region is not an exact science, nor is it something that we can predict with certainty. It is however, something that requires a different way of thinking about this region’s position now. According to Kyle and his experience in turning around a 90-plus year organisation, one of the key success factors in preparing for the future was about building a team that was able to think outside your current place and position to find the gaps and therefore, the opportunity. For Heidi, it was a similar approach in that great ideas and deep work happened in a cluttered and business landscape when people could focus, listen and question.

Can you imagine what your grandparents, or indeed their grandparents, would think about our 2018 lives?  The pace, the volume of information and the way we communicate let alone the way we build, work and live.

We are bombarded by information that reminds us how we fit into our modern world and that, to be effective, we must be agile, transformational and globally connected.

I don’t disagree, but let’s get some perspective. Over the past century, the region has reinvented and repositioned itself many times. So, therefore one might argue that is our latest chapter, while it is perhaps our greatest transformation to date, is not remarkable, just a logical evolution that is underpinned by people who understood our place and had the vision, collaboration and planning foresight to make it happen?

The trick here is managing our constant desire to get it right. There is nothing wrong with a commitment to getting the right outcome, but we must also understand and respect that fact that sometimes it’s not going to be right for everyone and that we don’t have to know everything.

We need to broaden our view by looking at options that might not be obvious. There is plenty of inspiration locally but this is where we should be looking and thinking globally. Once we have made decisions we should act quickly and collaboratively by embracing transformation as a logical step.

To do this, we must be have the courage to make the tough choices and the compassion to ensure that we are making these decisions with most in mind. 

Stephen Barr is a surveyor and town planner and is managing director of Barr Property and Planning.