Monday, July 24, 2006

View From Tasmania

Since publishing BoomtownUSA, one of the wonderful benefits has been the number of new people that I’ve met and corresponded with. Rod Brown recently wrote me about some of his experiences with trying to get niche development going in Tasmania.

My own experience is that I’ve seen niche companies develop in such areas as fishing flies, dog sleds and others. I’m sure that you might have others. I hope that several of you will have ideas of what they might look at doing. Please let Rod know. Here is his email.

Hi Jack and friends

I am a long-time reader of Agurban, and run a regional network of ED professionals here in Australia.

Last month I was addressing a local government conference in Tasmania (home of Errol Flynn, Princess Mary of Denmark and the Tassie Devil). My core message was that regions should think about a 'positioning strategy' – just as businesses do – and the creation of a strategic architecture that helps firms capture or create business opportunities. This architecture is a unique combination of physical infrastructure, technologies, core competencies and human capital that can take advantage of a business or trade opportunity.

Well, I got to thinking that Tasmania is a nice compact region, with an excellent brand and credentials in environmental management, a former track record in manufacturing, and the need for value-adding niche industries. I posed the question - could Tasmania develop a strong adventure and leisure industries agenda?

Let me explain. There are three major adventure chains in Australia - Paddy Palin, Khatmandu and Mountain Designs. Three years ago, I browsed around the latter’s Launceston (Tasmania) outlet and asked the manager if there were any Tasmanian products in stock – he could only point to packets of beef jerky. But the shelves were full of high value, foreign and interstate product lines:

1. Hiking boots and thermal clothing – Europe, USA.
2. Hiking and camping cooking utensils – France, Switzerland
3. Specialist measuring and optical equipment - Switzerland, Germany, Japan.
4. Energy food and drink – New Zealand, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
5. Kayaks and small, specialist boats – New Zealand.
6. Fishing equipment – Japan, RO Korea, Taiwan, China.

The prevailing view seems to be that Tasmania, and indeed Australia, cannot compete against cheap imports in these industries. Well I don’t buy that, and it hasn’t stopped parts of USA and NZ developing a strong presence in adventure products. Indeed, I was in Billings Montana recently where they too are keen to leverage off their mystique and frontier image, and thereby build economic capacity in the ‘adventure’ industry.

Do any of Jack’s readers have any insights in this field? Surely regional towns are well-placed to do smart things in the adventure value-adding, as part of a strong regional brand. Dirty, unfriendly cities should be legislated out of this! Seriously though, would any of you be interested in a cross-country dialogue on what initiatives can be taken to trigger the sustainable growth of regional businesses in this field? We would like to get a real dialogue going on this issue.

Look forward to hearing you, folk. Keep up the great work, Jack!

Rod Brown (The Cockatoo Group), Canberra, Australia

No comments: