The Illawarra is well placed to capitalise on its growing diversity and would help bring jobs back to Australia in a rapidly changing world.
Speaking at The Illawarra Connection dinner Deloitte’s Allan Mills said things have been happening in Wollongong during the last decade that have put it ahead of the game.
Mr Mills said through foresight, vision and planning the city had gone a long way to creating and competitive advantage that was having a positive economic impact on the region.
Mr Mills said there were many opportunities for Wollongong. One being developments in the area of robotics that were already changing corporate decision making in a way that meant executives were now considering the picturesque seaside city close to Sydney as a location rather than looking overseas.
The dinner at the Novotel was supported by Advantage Wollongong which is a partnership between Wollongong City Council, the University of Wollongong and the NSW Government.
Advantage Wollongong is a long-term strategic approach to transforming Wollongong with new business investment and Mr Mills said he was inspired when he saw a sign promoting that at a shared services conference in Melbourne a couple of years ago. That showed Wollongong was willing to put up a flag to proudly state what space it wanted to take in the global landscape..and invite company executives around the world to consider having a significant presence in the Illawarra.
“You are the first ones I have seen doing that. You should be proud of that. This is something you have invested in for the last 10 years. I had a look at the Innovation Campus. That is awesome. Companies are looking at that. It is such an important part of your economic growth going forward...along with your service industries as well.”
Mr Mills said it would all result in some really good exciting career roles and pathways for generations to come. That is because there are so many opportunities for Wollongong in the shared services area.
He said most shared service centres were now going to Asia rather than other parts of the world which meant Wollongong’s competition was now a lot closer to home.
“Wollongong needs to start thinking of itself as a competitor to those places. If that is the trend and people want shared service centres in our region how do we get more than our share? I want you to think this is a big opportunity. You have already started to tap into it with the Innovation Campus. But you need to think this is something that is happening right now. This is something you need to get behind. As a community you have already invested into it. You have got all these new businesses that are starting. So when you are in meetings with other organisations you need to make sure that when they start thinking about where they are going to place their shared service centres..that Wollongong is on the list of places to consider.”
Mr Mills said Deloitte was so inspired by what Wollongong was already doing that it flew an expert in from Belgium who heads up its global location practice.
“We have now been able to get Wollongong onto the global list so that when organisations are looking at places in the Asia Pacific region...you are going to be considered,” he said.
Mr Mills said the best way to think about shared service facilities now was as a multi-functional platform...not just a call centre.
“As shared services start to mature and continue to mature your emphasis around knowledge services (in Wollongong) is a real key. Because it is those high value services that are going to make the difference for Wollongong and make it stand separately from some of the off-shore competitors both in cultural awareness and how they can interact (with countries in other parts of the world),’’ he said.
Mr Mills said Wollongong was already so advanced in the shared services area that 1500 roles had been created in the sector in the last five to 10 years.
“That is really impressive and is so economically important to the region,” he said.
“If you are given an opportunity to support this then you should. It doesn’t need to be the only thing Wollongong does but it needs to be one of the key economic growth platforms you get behind.”
Mr Mills said the 75 new roles created by NEC at its new facility at UOW in recent weeks was a great example of what was possible.
“They are new jobs to the region. They are not jobs taken from other places. That is such a great story,” he said.
Mr Mills said the age of robotics was another area where Wollongong could have an advantage as a location competing with off shore providers.
With the IT platform already in existence at the university, if Wollongong invests in robotics (to help with things need to work between multiple systems when there is a set pattern) it will create a real competitive advantage because every minute of robot time is the equivalent of 15 minutes of human time.
It means through IT innovation at UOW the city of innovation can provide a local solution that will bring jobs back on-shore that previously went off-shore.
“I think you have got a fantastic opportunity with the platform you have created around the innovation campus as well as the energy and passion you have in Wollongong,” he said.
The presentation by Mr Mills came as Advantage Wollongong prepares to become the first region to exhibit at the World Business Forum Sydney in late May.
In introducing him Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the city had created many advantages that made it a superior business location.
“Australia’s City of Innovation is globally connected, has superb livability and a supportive business environment,” he said.
Cr Bradbery said Advantage Wollongong was actively driving Wollongong’s transformation in a long term strategic approach to attracting new business investment to the city.