A well made strategy should:
- Identify competitive advantages and available opportunities
- Select strategic directions and choose how to use scarce resources
- Set specific and measurable objectives.
The Redland City Council’s draft strategy does none of these things.
A strategy to set up a committee
The Council’s draft strategy proposes just one specific initiative which is to set up an Economic Development Committee. Setting up a committee is the thing that you do when you can’t think of anything clever to do. The side benefits of this idea are that it is easy and cheap. Local bigwigs will line up for a chance to get a seat at the table. They will probably do it for peanuts. Council obviously knows that the appearance of activity is easier to achieve than the real thing.
The draft Economic Development Strategy is much less focused than the Redlands 2030 Community Plan, published in 2010. The Community Plan set out goals such as:
- Supportive business infrastructure including high speed broadband and good transport
- New office space and commercial facilities
- Providing people with employment opportunities close to where they live
- Building on regional advantages (climate, environment and lifestyle) to attract people
- Providing quality education at all levels
- Development of eco-tourism
- Development of innovative and creative enterprises, including visual and performance arts
A serious economic development strategy would seek to deliver real progress in achieving such goals.
Measuring economic development
A well designed strategic plan has specific objectives with performance measures that provide useful feedback . It is more effective to measure what you can influence, rather than measuring things that are largely outside your control. If the objectives and measures are chosen carefully, people will be soon able to find out if the strategy is working.
The Council’s draft strategy is vague and wishful. It mentions four “growth measures” but does not explain why these measures are relevant to the draft economic development strategy. They are measures of output, rather than effort so it is unlikely that they will provide useful feedback.
One of the proposed “growth measures” is to have a long term annual average growth in Gross Regional Product (GRP) of 3.0%. GRP is a general measure of economic activity that will be influenced by the global, Australian and Queensland economies. Actions (or inaction) by the Redland City Council will have very little influence on GRP. The attached chart (sourced from economy.id) shows past volatility of the Redlands GRP including a big dip following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
The Council’s draft strategy suggests that we should have population growth of 1.2% per year. The document notes that population growth is good for the residential construction sector. It does not explain why 1.2% is the growth rate that Redlands has to have. There is a need for detailed analysis of population growth trends and the environmental impacts of ongoing residential development. Then we can have a sensible discussion about what might be a sustainable rate of population growth in the Redlands.
By way of comparison, the more specific measures of economic development put forward in the Redlands2030 Community Plan were:
- The number and types of jobs available in the Redlands
- The number of businesses attracted here
- The number of tertiary education opportunities available locally
So the Baldrick Award for a “cunning plan” goes to…
The people who prepared a draft Economic Development Strategy which is confusingly simple and/or simply confusing but definitely not a useful plan for improving the Redlands economy.
So that we can see who deserves to share this “Baldrick Award”, Council should answer these questions:
- Who was engaged to prepare this document, and why?
- What were their instructions and terms of reference?
- Who authorized the release of such a half baked document?
We need a real Economic Development Strategy
We encourage the community to read Council’s Draft Economic Development Strategy and make constructive suggestions for improvement. You can do this by commenting below.
We also encourage people to take advantage of the limited consultation opportunities at three community forums in late July 2014.
People must book tickets on-line if they wish to attend.
Session 1 – Capalaba Library, Thursday 24 July 2014, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm
Session 2 – Cleveland Library, Saturday 26 July 2014, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm
Session 3 – Victoria Point Library, Thursday 31 July from 6:00 to 7:00 pm
Further information about the draft Economic Development Strategy (and opportunities for providing feedback) can be found on Council’s webpage for City Plan 2015.
For comparison, have a look at the Economic Development Strategy recently published by the Bayside Council in Melbourne’s southern suburbs. It is an 80 page pdf document with file size of about 10MB.