As access to digital communications gradually improves, the lifestyle offered by country towns is growing in its attractiveness, especially to the entrepreneurial type.
“One thing that’s really jumped out at me is how people are using better internet connectivity – we run our Lightbulb Moments competition each year – the main applicants, or our strongest theme, is women in their prime working age who come up with ideas and are then able to execute that online,” said Regional Australia Institute chief executive officer, Jack Archer.
“That’s something that five to 10 years ago you just couldn’t do. You can grow all kinds of businesses from within country towns.”
He said the great benefit of digital businesses was they could be expanded globally, which broadened the potential for dollars and employment generation at the local town level.
This applied for agriculture, manufacturing and services, he said.
However, digital businesses also meant change for how and where business was conducted and didn’t necessarily follow the traditional main street model.
Mr Archer said communities therefore had to learn how to accommodate to these changes to allow such businesses to flourish.
“It’s one of the trends you’ve got to be a part of. It’s like ag – we’re never going to get anywhere if we want to keep ag in a particular framework,” he said.
“However, it works both ways. If your town has a good idea, then you can also take it global.”
Mr Archer said concurrently there was also renewed investment from government in major projects such as the Inland Rail, Snowy Hydro 2 and money from the poles and wires sale, an increasing number of investors pouring money into renewable energy projects and emerging growth in the health and services sectors in regional areas.
He said regional communities needed to look closely at how they could capture “a piece of that pie”.
Add in the demand for affordable housing and a better lifestyle than places like Sydney, and rural communities have a lot to offer.