Wollongong on the rise

Our city, a magnet for talent and new businesses

Wollongong has transformed over the past three decades from a heavy industrial and mining city to one that is focused on knowledge-intensive industries attracting global and local businesses.

Employment opportunities in the Wollongong area of 300,000 people, 70km south of Sydney, have been growing rapidly in health and social services and education, as well as emerging sector such as Knowledge Services and Advanced Manufacturing.

“Wollongong offers enviable coastal lifestyle and education opportunities, and with that an opportunity for businesses to expand,” says David Farmer GIAICD, general manager of Wollongong City Council.’

“They can attract good quality, highly skilled staff and retain them because of the lifestyle benefits in Wollongong”.

Investment company Mercer employs 600 people in the city for superannuation funds management while global IT company NEC recently opened a 180-seat centre offering IT support.

Another example is UK educational publisher Twinkl, which decided to set up in Wollongong after a nationwide search for Australian premises.

Growth and employment are also coming from homegrown local sources. For instance, Accelo was founded in Wollongong and provides cloud-based solutions to manage time-based professional services firms. It has expanded to Silicon Valley and will soon open an office in Denver. However, the company continues to grow its engineering, research and development arm in Wollongong, tapping into high-quality University of Wollongong IT graduates to help accelerate its growth.

Further magnifying the region’s attractiveness is the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus – a business park with a focus on collaboration between academia and industry. The 33ha site by the Pacific Ocean in North Wollongong houses tenants such as AMP, the Commonwealth Bank, Twinkl and NEC. Wollongong’s developing, innovative eco-system has been further expanded by iAccelerate, the region’s business incubator program, which provides a permanent home for 280 entrepreneurs across 4000 square metres.

The city’s changing lifestyle is also a major attraction.

“Wollongong city is changing dramatically,” – David Farmer.

Like many other cities, Wollongong has had a large amount of inner city development but with a key difference – the city is located on the coast. Mixed-use developments, an increasingly cosmopolitan lifestyle and the small bar and cafe culture have transformed the CBD over the past five years.

The Wollongong CBD has also attracted record investment , with $1.3 billion invested over the past four years, and another $300 million in the pipeline. “There are opportunities in Wollongong – whether starting or growing your business – where you can get a skilled, stable workforce,” says Farmer. An analysis by Deloitte revealed staff attrition rates in the shared services sector in Wollongong were just five per cent compared with 25 per cent in Sydney.

Employers also have access to Wollongong’s commuter workforce, which provides a ready-made pool of highly skilled employees for businesses to tap into. Another source of talent is the University of Wollongong, which attracts more than 20,000 students from around the country and the globe.

Investors are also becoming increasingly attracted to the sorts of property yields that aren’t possible in larger commercial office markets. The A-grade Corporate Square office building in the Wollongong CBD sold for a record $46.1 million last year, at a yield of 7.38 per cent.

With so many strengths, this is a city to keep on the radar.

Source: Australian Institute of Company Directors, Company Director Magazine, Page 68 and 69.

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