Revitalizing Rural Economies: Strategies for Attracting Investments to South Australian Towns

Revitalizing rural economies requires strategies that foster inclusive economic development. Drawing on the promising work of Main Street programs in three rural communities prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this brief describes how place investments can encourage cohesion, bridge divisions, and enhance residents’ attachment to place.

South Australia is well known for its premium wines, but the state has a much more diverse economy. Here are some of the opportunities it offers for investors:

1. Focus on Agriculture

Developing an economy through agriculture is critical to South Australia’s success. It provides the state with a high-quality, pristine growing environment (both land and water), outstanding food safety standards, a skilled workforce, and world-class research and development capabilities.

The agriculture sector is also a key source of jobs, especially for those without qualifications or work experience. As such, it needs to be a focus for investments. This includes enhancing agricultural production and market integration, as well as developing value added in the agri-food industry.

As the world tries to reduce poverty and hunger, it is clear that investments in agriculture are essential. Specifically, investments in agricultural human capital are needed to improve farmers’ productivity and incomes, as well as contribute to economic transformation and development.

While the majority of rural poor households are small landowners or tenants, noncultivators are a growing segment of the rural poor population in many countries. Noncultivators are those who work in the informal, rural sector or have a combination of both farm and nonfarm labor. As such, they are more vulnerable to changes in the demand for labor, wage rates, and food prices, and they have less access to public sector safety nets like food rations or social support services.

In addition to enhancing agricultural production and market integration, it is important to increase the availability of financing in the agricultural sector. This includes addressing policy and legal barriers to agricultural finance. This could include improving lending quotas, interest rate caps, bank branch expansion regulations, and prudential rules impacting agricultural credit. Moreover, facilitating investment in the agricultural infrastructure sector is crucial to improving rural growth and poverty reduction. This can include addressing bottlenecks in the supply of roads, railways, and energy.

2. Develop Tourism

Developing tourism, especially cultural and adventure tourism, is a major way to encourage investment in rural areas. With a focus on sustainable, socially responsible tourism, it can help to develop community-based economies, foster local wealth creation and promote long term regional resilience. In addition, it can provide a critical link between rural and urban areas, and can contribute to the global goal of eliminating poverty worldwide.

South Australia is well known internationally for its premium wines and is a top 10 global wine producer, exporting 60 per cent of its production. It also has pristine growing environments both on land and in the water, impeccable food safety standards (including fruit fly and phylloxera-free status) and a highly skilled workforce.

As a result, its economy is diversified and it is home to leading companies in innovation, advanced manufacturing, minerals and energy. Its dedicated, collaborative state-of-the-art research and development precincts attract some of the world’s best talent and pioneering entrepreneurs.

The city of Townsville is the gateway to the rainforest and reef, and is positioned to continue to grow as a commercial centre for northern Queensland, thanks to its natural attractions and year-round calendar of events and experiences. It is also attracting new domestic and international flights, which will ensure it remains an attractive destination for visitors and investors.

As the pandemic continues, it is important for regions to look at opportunities to bolster their economic development, such as developing tourism and fostering small business. Ultimately, a more resilient regional economy will benefit all. The key is to work with local communities to understand the issues and develop a strategy that will be beneficial in the long run.

3. Encourage Small Business

South Australia has a strong small business sector that includes a large number of micro-businesses and small family businesses. These are the backbone of the economy, generating much of our wealth and providing quality jobs for South Australians.

The Government is enabling small business growth with tax relief measures, including lower company taxes. The Coalition has also established an independent review to ensure we are providing the best possible support for small business.

A key challenge for many small businesses is finding the right staff, especially in regional areas. This is a result of limited local talent pools, low levels of skills training and other barriers such as cost of living and transport costs.

It is essential that we address this to ensure small businesses can thrive and attract new investments. This could include establishing mentoring programs and developing industry networks to help improve the availability of workers. This could be delivered in partnership with local councils and industry bodies.

Another key issue is ensuring that small businesses have the capability to respond to business opportunities and challenges, including preparing for disasters. Our survey showed that only 38 per cent of small business owners had a disaster plan in place. This includes plans for managing natural disasters such as bushfires, as well as broader business continuity planning in the event of disruptions such as power outages or equipment failure.

In addition, the Government needs to work with local industry associations and chambers of commerce to better promote the state’s investment opportunities to international buyers. This would be an important part of attracting investment from a range of sources, including foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade missions.

4. Encourage Skilled Trades

The world needs more skilled tradespeople, and rural communities need to be able to attract them. In order to do that, they need to make it clear that there are careers beyond the traditional university-and-college track and promote a trades career as a viable option for young people from a very early age. They also need to be more strategic in promoting apprenticeship programs and making it clear that tradespeople get paid well.

Rural areas are often viewed as economic backwaters, but revitalizing them can bring benefits beyond agriculture and tourism. A focus on industrial development can stimulate the countryside’s economy, enhance the quality of farmers’ life and improve rural cultural vitality.

To foster this, village governments can strengthen their industrial development policies. They can encourage investments in industry through a variety of channels, including government guidance, market operation, social regulation and talent return. They can also develop cultural industries and support agricultural production, sales, and tourism development.

As part of their efforts to revitalize their economies, towns can invest in infrastructure, promote tourism, develop small businesses and nurture a skilled trades workforce. By doing so, they can become a place that is attractive for investment and a desirable place to live.

Many people don’t consider a career in the skilled trades because they simply don’t know enough about it. Teachers, parents, and other mentors can help by educating students about all the different options available to them. This way, they can make an informed decision about what they want to do with their lives.

In the future, there will be a shortage of skilled tradespeople as baby boomers retire and leave the workforce. If rural communities don’t take steps to prepare now, they may face serious consequences in the near future.

5. Develop the Creative Economy

The creative economy is one of the most important areas for economic growth. It includes the arts, technology, entertainment and more. This sector is growing faster than many other sectors of the economy. It is also a great way to create jobs. The benefits of the creative economy are numerous, including boosting local economies and increasing international trade.

It’s easy to see why the creative economy is so important. It can boost a country’s economy by providing new opportunities for business, creating jobs, and encouraging innovation. It can also help revitalize rural economies by providing new sources of income.

However, it is challenging to measure the success of the creative economy. This is because the sector combines a variety of different fields and disciplines. In addition, it’s hard to put a price on intangible goods. This is why it’s essential to have a well-developed strategy for measuring the success of the creative economy.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the creative economy was experiencing strong economic growth. However, like all businesses, it took a hit as governments worked out a response to the pandemic. During this time, the creative economy was able to refine its work and come up with new ideas. Once the pandemic ended, the creative economy resumed its growth, and it is expected to continue to grow in the future.

Developing the creative economy is key to attracting investments to South Australian towns. Our dedicated and collaborative state-of-the-art innovation precincts such as Lot Fourteen and Tonsley attract some of the world’s best talent. Our government works side-by-side with global entities and grassroots enterprises to foster an environment that enables collaboration and innovation.

As the world faces some of the biggest challenges in decades, the creative economy is more important than ever before. Its power to generate wealth and create new opportunities will be vital to the recovery of global demand. It will also help revitalize the traditional economy by giving new life to production, services, commerce and entertainment.