The Sunshine Coast Business Council’s ‘Outlook for Business Investment’ conference hosted last Friday (3 May) provided the 130-plus attendees from the Sunshine Coast business community, as well as representatives from local and state government, with an insight into the challenging investment climate being experienced both nationally and locally.

The conference, hosted at the Maroochy RSL, included a stellar speaker line-up with insights being shared by Business Council of Australia Chief Economist Stephen Walters, Macroeconomist and Partner at Deloitte Access Economics Stephen Smith, Shadow Treasurer, Shadow Minister for Investment and Trade and Shadow Minister for Home Ownership David Janetzki, Property Economist and Director at Innovociti Malcolm Aikman and Group Executive – Economic & Community Development for Sunshine Coast Council Greg Laverty.

SCBC Chair Sandy Zubrinich said the sold-out conference aimed to draw attention to the extended slowdown in business investment around Australia over a long period of time, and the impacts this so-called investment drought is expected to have on the region’s local economy.

“There is much to be concerned about when one considers that Australia’s global competitive ranking has slipped from the fourth to 19th in the past two decades, and closer to home Queensland is sitting at joint fourth in CommSec’s State of the States[1] economic performance report released last month,” Ms Zubrinich said.

“Our speakers highlighted that, nationally, investment as a percentage of GDP is sitting at extremely low levels, similar to the recession of the 1990s, while capital is flowing out of Australia rather than in – a phenomenon last seen a century ago.

“So, what does this mean for the Sunshine Coast? Across the board, our highly qualified panel reiterated that operating in such an extremely competitive investment environment means the onus is firmly on our region to create an appealing, competitive environment for those looking to invest their funds in the future, one that welcomes them with open arms and offers both certainty and support.

“While our strong population growth will inevitably see continued growth in the local economy, it creates pressure on housing and infrastructure and cannot be relied on indefinitely – improved productivity must remain a priority if we are to be a sustainable, strong economy in the long-term capable of attracting major investment.

“The challenge around the lack of housing for our workforce, delays in the planning process and minimal long-term commitment to infrastructure, generated robust discussion between members of the business community – including local investors – and representatives from both local and state government in the final panel discussion.

“The Sunshine Coast Business Council’s role, as the leading regional advocate for business and the economy, is to provide a platform where these necessary and sometimes challenging discussions can take place, and where our members have an opportunity to be heard and I thank everyone for their respectful participation.

“Our region has benefitted from solid business investment over the past decade, with significant projects such as the Sunshine Coast Airport, master-planned residential and mixed-use developments and the new Maroochydore City Centre, however, the forward investment pipeline appears to have slowed – a trend the SCBC board has been actively bringing to attention for some time.”

Macroeconomist and Partner at Deloitte Access Economics Stephen Smith shared his insights into the pre- and post-pandemic business investment trends by state and offered his perspective on Australia’s economic outlook.

“In times of economic uncertainty, regional economies can often feel the brunt of a slowdown in business investment. But the growth of the Sunshine Coast region makes continually attracting public and private investment all the more important,” Mr Smith said.

“Investment plays a critical role in spurring economic growth, boosting productivity and strengthening regional economic resilience.”

Ms Zubrinich thanked those who participated in the conference and called on those who attended –both from the business community and those representing government – to consider the lessons learned from the high calibre speaker line-up and to place greater emphasis on collaboration between business and government to drive economic growth in the coming decade.

“At a time when regions across Australia and beyond are competing so fiercely to attract investment, we need the mechanisms in place to be considered favourably, and that has to be an all-of-region approach. By creating a welcoming environment for investors, we can unlock the full potential of our region, create new jobs and deliver the infrastructure and housing we so desperately need.”