Noosa Council Economic Development Plan

Noosa Council Economic Development Plan

Noosa Council has just released their latest local economic development plan and asked for input. It was quite interesting to listen to myself share some thoughts on that. Repetitive in places, but it clarified a few things for me and reinforced the importance of the impact I want to have.

I encourage anyone working and living in Noosa to review and add your thoughts at Your Say.

Buying Local

One of the most impactful things to grow a resilient community is buying local. As a large purchaser, I would expect Noosa council to have a very strong local purchasing mandate. In addition, we should look at our balance of trade. Are we net importers or net exporters? For a truly sustainable future, a balance should be the aim. When large imports are found, council could play a role in figuring out how to produce those goods or services locally.
One example is electricity. A ZEN study showed that electricity to the value of $77 Million is imported annually. That same electricity could be produced locally with these funds staying in the local community.

Gaps in Sustainable Offering

Council’s role should be highlighting trends and gaps in the sustainable service/product offering. It seems that the discussion paper is written with the premise that economic growth is desirable and necessary for us to be well off. That assumption needs to be revisited.
A sustainable economy cannot continue to grow. Instead, it needs to balance the needs of its participants with the environmental and social impacts. An example of a positive shrinking economic process would be replacing private car ownership with shared electric robo-taxis. Cars are only used 4% of the time, which means that 96% of the time, these resources sit idle. An infrastructure of community-owned electric vehicles and solar charging stations could set a precedent that can be replicated elsewhere in the world.
Again, as a community, we would reduce our imports (cars) and keep the funds local (repaying the investors that enable this infrastructure).

Innovative Ways of Cooperating

Council should focus these strategies on bringing the community together and enabling the implementation of truly innovative ways to live together. Noosa has had strong, visionary leadership to become a biosphere based on the natural environment and governance structures. We have the chance to become true leaders in sustainability by implementing innovative economic visions that do not follow old assumptions, but questions them and test new pathways.

Council could invest in pilot programs that have clear positive environmental and social impacts, while they might not be commercially fully viable. It was the people who invested in solar early (while prices were still high) that enabled the solar revolution we are seeing today where prices have come down substantially. In the same way, new community-owned business models need to be funded while they might still be more expensive than the traditional way.
An example might be letting a large, remote company manage the electricity and local solar installations for council. In the procurement decision making, short-term commercial interest should be replaced by long-term environmental, social and commercial expectations, even if the risk of doing that might be slightly higher today.

Council as Early Client

Looking at future economic opportunities is only useful when combining them with positive environmental and social outcomes. At the same time, council funds should not be used in risky endeavours. That is for investor funds to do.
So the combination of the economic power of Noosa Council in combination with innovative business ideas is where I would put the focus. This could include actively requesting specific problems to be solved and becoming a client of these solutions, rather than providing grant funding without a specific return.

Closed Resource Loops

Another business support activity that should be considered is closing the resource loops. For Noosa to become a truly zero-waste community. Having strong incentives to consider resource loops in the procurement of all goods. Imagine requiring no household bins!
Sectors and subsectors that should be profiled to promote Noosa as a business destination of choice: clean energy (and the decentralised management of the grid that is required for that), no waste by closing resource loops, shared resources through more community-owned resources and business models (on a voluntary basis because of the personal benefits people see), positive environmental and social impact.
It is probably more a vision around the outcomes I would like to see, business is just the enabler to make them happen.

Reduced Import instead of Increased Export

I notice that the discussion paper focuses largely on export. In my view, this should be balanced with a reduction in the requirement for imports (ultimately leading to a balance between the two – do you know whether we have a “trade deficit” or “trade surplus”.

Cooperation for Reaching a Mutual Vision

I also see “competitive advantage” in the discussion paper. In my view, that is also an assumption that needs to be replaced with co-operation. Businesses with a strong sustainable vision succeed beyond their own capacity if they can create open-source knowledge that can be implemented by others. Examples are open-source projects in software where the original creators charge for the customised services they provide while allowing the community to benefit for free.
So I would support the projects that focus on creating value for our world community through a focus on collaboration and sharing while creating economically sound business models locally.

Question Old Assumptions

It was interesting to work through these questions as they clarified some of my own views that I could not have articulated before.
I think the Peregian Digital Hub is an excellent example of how I would like to see council act. Not because it supports entrepreneurs, but because an idea that was born in the community with a visionary outcome was funded by council on the basis that financially it was not too large a burden and the likelihood of a positive outcome was high.

Bold Vision

I would like to see council make more bold moves for other sustainable outcomes that are connected to our Biosphere vision of living in harmony with nature. To me, these are people that are happy, healthy and hopeful, having more clean energy, natural resource loops and increased biodiversity. Business and economic development should just be an enabler for these, not a goal unconnected from these visions.

The discussion paper has captured that to a good extent. Thanks so much to the Noosa economic development team for preparing it. I hope I can inspire a review of some of the underlying assumptions (such as a requirement for economic growth and competition instead of co-operation) would be great.

Passionate Management