We’re big and we need to be bold, just like LA
THE Northern Rivers could be a city. You could, in fact, fit Los Angeles within the region very comfortably, according to Bernard Salt.
While it benefits geographically being removed from a city, into the future the region needs to think as a collective to reap the benefits, he said.
Speaking at The Northern Star's sold-out Future Northern Rivers event at Southern Cross University yesterday, Mr Salt said the region's entrepreneurial spirit had to be harnessed and developed further, to drive our knowledge sector and create jobs for the future.
The experienced social commentator explained how the region was Australia's 12th largest urban mass outside Sydney and how to capitalise on the advantages that came with that.
"Australian values are it must be real, authentic, local, communal. That's the strongest selling point I think the Northern Rivers has into the 2020s.," he said.
To address future challenges Mr Salt said the region would benefit from a second university and more faculties, more training and more vocational opportunities.
What we needed in the future, he said was continuous learning.
"We need an entrepreneurial mindset... this region in particular is a bizarrely entrepreneurial community only exceeded by Sydney's northern beaches.
"How can we capitalise on that. How can we build sole trader businesses into small businesses?"
He said the Northern Rivers "needs a mechanism to project its scale, its capacities, to a broader market" and suggested it come in the form of "some kind of union of mayors who envision and agree upon a common future".
"We need a United Municipalities of the Northern Rivers to galvanise and pursue a big and an outrageously ambitious agenda for the future of the region."
Mr Salt said he encouraged further emphasis on the growth of education, as the jobs growth sectors were in education, healthcare, construction and public administration areas.
"The future is something that can happen to you as you're going about your business, or it is something you can grab with both hands.
"In order to do that you need to put a vision of the future out there, you need a mechanism to deal with that, you need a structure...that is ongoing who's (responsibility) is to continually envision the future and to bring elicit feedback from the community.
"If I had to predict front page of The Northern Star in 2040, that front page should be 'what can our region be in 2060'.
"You don't arrive at the future by focusing on the future by shaping the future you improve the quality of life and type of community you want to be.
"Do you want to provide jobs for the next generation of kids, do you want to be sustainable, do you want to have a cultural and artistic community or do you want all of the above?."His final advice? "Set your sights as high and as outrageously as you can. Then if you have to settle it's still a good outcome."