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SA: stop comparing and start competing

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I came to Adelaide by choice three years ago, having lived and worked around the world with BP, in the US, UK, and Europe. I liked the idea of a “Committee for Adelaide” because the model works. It brings together a broad spectrum of people and organisations that think the same way but lack a common forum.

Everyone involved in C4ADL – from whatever walk of life, and whatever agenda – is passionately committed to making this place better.

Adelaide has so much going for it, and like many other second-tier cities, it punches above its weight in the things we feel good about. Second tier doesn’t have to mean second best, but in a world where bigger means better, it often does.

The challenges facing the city are immense. We are ageing – fast. Our tax base is shrinking, and will continue to do so just as our need for infrastructure grows. Many of our best and brightest have to leave to achieve. Our businesses are losing the critical mass they need to trade locally, let alone to compete nationally.

Declaring this someone’s fault is not a strategy or a solution. To do something about it, we must stop comparing, and start competing.

How does C4ADL hope to help do this? We are self-funded and independent, so we can be fearless in how we use evidence to candidly define the problem.

We are non-partisan and apolitical, so solutions can be pragmatic – driven by ideas, not dictated by ideology or the election cycle.

We are diverse, so we can draw on expertise beyond the usual; harnessing skills from networks that often go untapped.

The evidence shows that marshalling the means to compete is about having the right people with talent, skill and creativity; the right level of business activity to support local enterprise; and better access to capital for the growth we all want.

Our work is more than just slogans.

To attract and retain our smart people we must be the first state to initiate an integrated “diaspora action plan” linking expatriates to South Australian strong-suit sectors; boost both formal and informal overseas exchange programs; offer greater opportunities for younger people to assume senior leadership positions here, and work together on a talent strategy to incubate our best.

To increase business activity, we must attract enterprise sectors that are research-and-development-intensive, and centred on emerging technology. We must invest in our innovation skills, both here and in overseas trade offices with the authority to negotiate directly with inward investors on R&D-related incentives. We can move first to assemble a nationally respected taskforce of industry representatives, policy experts and leading researchers with experience in commercialisation to re-think intellectual property in a 21st-century, knowledge-based economy. Because this is how ingenuity and originality find protection in a global market.

To attract the capital we need, we must give serious thought to a new investment vehicle to work closely with Treasury, government infrastructure planning authorities, professional services firms and private investors to attract capital investment for state strategic infrastructure. To do this, we need a productivity-focused group to propose some new business models to better deliver infrastructure and services to the community.

These themes demand that we work together to find new sources of growth that can bring new life to the state.

Why am I not sitting on a deck chair with a Coopers Pale, enjoying the sun? Well, we have been made incredibly welcome in this beautiful state, and if I and the many who have put up their hands to help Adelaide and SA grab the 21st century with both hands and look forward – not back – then we can all help stop comparing and start competing.

Colin Goodall is chair of the Committee for Adelaide.

 What do you think of the committee’s vision? Share your views by emailing indaily@solsticemedia.com.au. (Please include full name).

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