There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth lately about the future of the Bluescope Steelworks that sit at the heart of the Wollongong economy.
Thanks to a combination of a high dollar and record high ore prices, the Steelworks is having to cut spending. This means that projects are being put off, contractors are suffering and things are not looking good for some of the workforce. Considering the Steelworks is the biggest single employer in the city, this is going to have a knock on effect on the greater economy, both directly and indirectly.
While most of the argument surrounding the Bluescope situation has focused on the upcoming Carbon Tax (though to be honest the Carbon Tax is going to have a smaller effect than the exchange rate), I think we're at a point now where we need to start thinking about a post Bluescope Wollongong. Or at least a Wollongong that could stand to lose Bluescope without leaving a great smoking crater in the local economy.
When BHP pulled out of Newcastle it took years for the city to get back on its feet. I'd much rather we avoid that situation if at all possible, and if we really work on developing new industries (rather than paying lip service to the "City of Innovation" tag), we can create a city that can stand against any single point of failure.
Here's a couple of steps that should be taken:
- Start talking about a Wollongong that can take the hit of losing the Steelworks.
- Stop thinking that because we're a Steel and Coal city today, we're going to be a Steel and Coal city tomorrow.
- Start actively courting new industries. We are a city/region with benefits. We're close to Sydney, we have lifestyle benefits, we have the Uni, we have people in this city who are capable of amazing things, we need to start utilising them.
That's just the start. It's not going to happen over night, but if we don't start now, we're not going to be ready for the future.