Only about 200,000 of the city’s 320,000 workers are back in the CBD after months in home offices and thousands more international students are still abroad.
To tackle the issue, the Adelaide City Council last week invited InDaily’s 40 Under 40 alumni to share their ideas at a Town Hall workshop on how to ensure Adelaide can remain a creative and liveable hub in the future.
About 25 alumni from the 80 winners over the past two years of the award program attended the event hosted by Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor.
Suggestions included activating the city’s green spaces and park lands to attract more visitors and establishing a lifestyle and culture that was the envy of other cities.
Verschoor said that within 10 years 75 per cent of all city workers would be Millennials.
She said it would be up to innovative young thinkers such as the 40 Under 40 alumni to drive change to prepare the city for a dramatic generational shift.
“You are the future and I need your help,” Verschoor said.
“COVID-19 has been the ultimate disrupter and as a council we are acutely aware of the ongoing social, cultural and economic impacts.
“In these challenging times one thing that has been made clear is Adelaide is full of innovation and creativity – and together, we can achieve great things.”
Past 40 Under 40 winner and Sprout managing director Themis Chryssidis said the city should focus on building a culture to help attract talent from other major Australian cities.
He said the cost of doing business had gone down as a result of the pandemic and South Australia’s relatively low levels of infections were also a positive.
“I think the people who are going to live here for the next 30 or 40 years can lead by example, build a culture and become role models. But we all need to be on the same page to do that,” he said.
Oz Minerals transformation general manager Katie Hulmes said future generations would look to come into cities for different reasons that were not yet clear.
She said Adelaide needed to focus on its unique points of difference such as its abundant green spaces and use them to create a unique visitor experience.
“One of the challenges is what we have been successful at in the past will look very different in the future so we have to be willing to try lots of new things, there’s not going to be a single answer to this new world we’re emerging in to,” Hulmes said.
“How do we leverage Gig City, the entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to experiment that South Australia is very good at?
“It’s a lot about not trying to compete with others to do what they do but finding what we have and can do differently and amplifying it.”
The alumni gathering also gave the 40 Under 40 members time to compare notes on how each are getting back to business after a few tough months.
Prohibition Liquor co-founder Wes Heddles said his business had faced some very industry specific challenges such as the loss of wholesale customers including bars and restaurants and a loss of direct customers when the gin maker’s Gilbert St venue was forced to close.
However, he said a boost in online sales had helped offset losses during the shutdown and average spend had been up since the venue reopened last month.
Prohibition has also increased its exports to Japan and Singapore through hosting zoom sessions where participants pre-buy a bottle and mix cocktails at home as part of the masterclass.
Fellow distiller Sacha La Forgia said he had used the downtime at his Adelaide Hills Distillery at Lot 100 near Nairne to work on some new concoctions, which he hoped to unveil in spring.
UniSA Online Executive Director Tom Steer said the lockdown had led to an online education boom. The business arm started in 2018 and now has 4000 students and 120 staff.
Steer said it was not a case of the online part of the business taking students away from traditional university courses as more than two-thirds of course participants were based outside of South Australia but wanted flexible education opportunities they were familiar with.
He said the COVID-19 lockdown where people were stuck at home with time on their hands had led to a boost in enrolments.
“We were already set up as a product be this has provided a huge opportunity for us,” Steer said.
“70 per cent of our students have never even set foot on a UniSA campus before.
“Generally our overseas students are Aussies travelling or working elsewhere.”
The 40 Under 40 awards, now in their third year, celebrate the state’s entrepreneurial leaders under the age of 40 and in the past have included some of South Australia’s most successful startups.
Nominations are still open for the 40 Under 40 Awards, with judging to commence in August before the awards are held in October.
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